2.7 God's Name is Yahweh / Jehovah / Yahoovah.
(Note: The exact pronunciation isn't vital. The meaning of
the name rather than its pronunciation is the essence. It is likely
that the correct form would be something like Ya-hoo-wah, including
the essence of the three forms of the Hebrew verb 'to be'- past,
present and future (1).
The Hebrew idea of a name is connected with the idea of who a person
essentially is. In Biblical Hebrew, one would enquire after a person's
literal name by asking "Who (mi) are you?"- not,
as was asked of Jacob, "What (mah) is your name?"
(Gen. 32:28). This question to Jacob was therefore a request for
him to ask himself who he really was. God's Name in this sense is
to become part of ours- hence after God's declaration of His Name
to Moses, the Israelites started to insert parts of the Yah / Jeh
name into their own. Interestingly, there's hardly any example of
this being done before the time of Moses, with the possible exception
of Moses' own mother Jochebed / Yahhebed ['Yah is weighty'; Ex.
6:20]. Perhaps her parents had perceived this, or maybe she herself
did, and thus Moses was almost genetically set up to receive the
revelation of Yahweh's Name because his own mother had meditated
upon it. Incidentally, the use of the name 'Jochebed' shows that
the YHWH Name was known before the time of Ex. 6:3. "By my
name YHWH was I not known to them?" needs to be read as a question,
not a statement that the Name was unknown to anyone before the time
To the Semitic peoples, a name stands for the essential identity
of a person; to know their name gives access to the power and authority
which they have. This is why Moses is so urgent to know God's Name
(Ex. 3:13,14). Insofar as we grasp and absorb into ourselves the
principles of that Name, we likewise will be empowered by the Father.
The Name of God is essentially an epitomy of who God is. God declared
His Name to Moses when He declared His attributes to Him. This means
that all that God is, we must be. Our attitudes to God are therefore
related to our views about God. If we are impure, then we are saying
that effectively God is impure- thus God rebukes Israel for having
unjust weights: “Shall I be pure with wicked balances?” (Mic. 6:11
RV). We make God effectively impure by our being impure. Especially
will our attitude to talking with God in prayer be affected by our
view of who God is. If we consider Him to be inflexible, insisting
that His will be done over and above our will, then there
will be no sense of struggle in prayer, no grasp of the frightening
reality that prayer does change things, with all this implies from
us in terms of continuance and struggle in prayer. Ps. 44:20,21
state that to remember the Name of God takes place in the secret
places of the heart. To remember the Name doesn't mean to remember
that oh yes, His Name is 'Yahweh'. We remember the Name in the secret
heart- it's such a personal thing. God will search the secret heart
to see if we have forgotten the Name or whether those principles
still affect our walk. For the things of the Name affect our lives
and thinking to the very core. The Lord Jesus fed off the majesty
of the Name of Yahweh (Mic. 5:4)- this was how inspirational He
found the things of the Name. To fear the Name of Yahweh was to
“observe to do all the words of this law” (Dt. 28:58). Meditation
and sustained reflection upon the characteristics of God as epitomized
and memorialized in His Name will of itself lead to a conformation
of personality to that same Name. If we declare that Name to others,
they too have the chance to be transformed by it- thus Moses comments:
“Because I will publish the name of the Lord, ascribe ye
greatness unto our God” (Dt. 32:3).
As a caveat to our rightful emphasis upon the need to correctly
know doctrine about God, let's remember 1 Cor. 8:2,3: " If
one thinks he knows, he has not yet known anything as he ought to
know; but if one loves God, one is known by Him" . In other
words, we will never know God to perfection in this life; but what
we can be sure of and rejoice in is that He knows us. Paul
almost implies that we can easily forget this wondrous fact, because
of our obsession with wanting to fully know about Him.
The Reason For Praise
There is a link between the name Yahweh, and praise. Halle-lu-YAH is saying that for the sake of the Name Yah, therefore praise Him. David sat down and designed musical instruments because of the Name (2 Chron. 7:6). The Psalms often make the link explicit, e.g. " ...give thanks unto Thy holy name, and to triumph in Thy praise" (Ps. 106:47). The Name and praise are paralleled. If we know the beauty and wonder of God's Name, His very being, this is of itself an imperative to praise. He alone is worthy of praise because His Name alone is exalted (Ps. 148:13). "Because I will publish the name of the Lord: ascribe ye [therefore] greatness unto our God" (Dt. 32:3). As His Name is, so is His praise world-wide (Ps. 48:10); beyond the barriers of distance and language, those who know the Name are united in praise. Is. 42:8 speaks as if God's Name is itself His praise, so strong and inevitable is the link between knowing His Name and praising it: " I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images" . " Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name" (Ps. 29:2) suggests that the Name of Yahweh demands praise from us. To simply declare the Name is of itself to praise (Heb. 2:12). This explains why at least 15 times in the Psalms and often elsewhere, praise is to be given to God's Name (Ps. 7:17; 9:2; 44:8; 54:6; 61:8; 69:30; 74:21; 99:3; 113:1; 135:1; 138:2; 142:7; 145:2; 148:5,13; 149:3). And it also explains why acceptable worship involves having true doctrinal understanding of God (Mk. 7:7). There are similar links between glory and praise.
We read often that Yahweh is who His Name declares Him to be- and therefore He should be praised (e.g. Ps. 92:1). This is saying far more than 'His Name is Yahweh therefore praise this "Yahweh"'. That would be some sort of tautology, praise for the sake of praise. Rather the root of the praise is to be found in the fact that Yahweh really is who His Name declares Him to be- unlike so many Israelites, who never lived up to the great things their names declared of them. There is a congruence between who God says He is, and how we find Him to be. And this congruence is so great that He must be praised because of it.
Who God is, the nature of His Name of Yahweh, of itself inspires our worship.
This is important; for we become what we worship (Jer. 2:5). Those
who worship idols become like them; and those who worship the true
God for all that He is, was and will be, become like Him. This is
why worship and the appreciation of Him that underpins it is crucial
for every true believer. We have often observed that first principles
are all linked in with each other. Because " I am Yahweh"
, " the word that I speak shall come to pass" (Ez. 12:25).
Because He is, and He will be, therefore the words of the
'I will be', really will be. Thus when Israel saw [and see] God's
word fulfilled in their experiences, they will know that He is Yahweh-
that this God who spoke really will be. Those who refused to believe
that God's word of judgment against sin would truly be fulfilled
are spoken of as those who " have belied YAHWEH, and said,
It is not he" (Jer. 5:12). This is a clear reference to the
fact Yahweh means 'I will be / I am'. To doubt His word in practice
is to belie His very Name and being. This is why God assures us
of the certainty of both His salvation and also His judgment of
sin by saying that " As I live, saith Yahweh…" (Ez. 20;31,33;
Is. 49:18; Num. 14:21). As surely as He who is, really is, so surely
His words of promise and judgment will be fulfilled. His Name therefore
confirms the reality of His words. David reflects upon the link
between God's Name and His word in Ps. 138:2: " I will worship
toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness
and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above ['by']
all thy name" . God's word is magnified by the Name, and vice
versa- for David praises the Name on account of the mercy and truth
revealed in the word, perhaps, specifically, the promises to Abraham
['lovingkindness / mercy and truth' are often used about these].
Because of all this, the Yahweh Name is the most essential challenge
to faith. " I will be" is a challenge to believe
that what is not yet seen will be on the basis of what
has been and what is. We must trust / believe in the Name of Yahweh
"Hallowed be your name" isn't merely an ascription of
praise- it's actually a request for God to carry out all the implications
of His Name in practice. When we sing praise to God's Name, we ask
for it to be glorified- and here is where praise isn't mere painless
performance of music. Once we bring the Name of God into it, we're
actually asking for action in our lives. Jesus Himself prayed that
part of His model prayer- "Father, glorify your name"
(Jn. 12:28)- and soon afterwards He could comment that in His death,
"Now the Son of man is glorified, and in him God is glorified"
(Jn. 13:31). Thus in the Lord's case, a request to glorify God's
Name lead Him ultimately to the cross.
Motivation To Labour
The fact God’s Name is carried by us, the righteousness of it imputed to us, should lead us to a greater awareness of His grace. Paul alludes to how he carried the Yahweh Name when he says that “by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Cor. 15:10). And his response was therefore to labour abundantly. A theme of Malachi is that Israel failed to appreciate God's Name of Yahweh, and therefore they were half-hearted in their service. They gave the minimum to God, they were partial in their generosity, because they despised His Name. The fullness and richness of the Name, of who God is, a God full of grace and truth (Ex. 34:6 RV), should lead us to a fullness of response. For the sake of the Name, believers labour (Rev. 2:13). To know the name of Yahweh is an imperative to serve Him (1 Chron. 28:9). The greatness of the Name should have led to full and costly sacrifices (Mal. 1:6-8,9-11,14; 2:2). Thinking upon the Name led the faithful to pay their tithes and fellowship with each other (Mal. 3:6,10). Giving unto Yahweh the glory due to His Name is articulated through giving sacrifice (Ps. 96:8). If we know God, we will act and judge as He does (Jer. 22:16). To perceive that Yahweh is indeed so righteous results in us humbling ourselves (2 Chron. 12:6), just as the declaration of the Name made Moses hide in the cleft of the rock, and as it will make men in the last days throw away all their vestige of human pride (Is. 2).
There are a few NT references to the Yahweh Name (2).
One of them is in Heb. 11:6: he who comes to God must first [most
importantly] believe that He is [a reference to He who
is who He is, and will be who He will be], and that therefore, as
an intrinsic part of who He is, He is a rewarder of His
people. Surely the point is that it's not just knowing the Name
theoretically, it is to believe it- that He who is , really is
in our lives. Who God is, i.e. His Name, is an imperative
to be like Him. If we are His sons and daughters, who He is becomes
quite naturally the law of our being. Thus we should love our enemies,
because God makes His sun [cp. 'our' goodness] to rise
on both His friends and enemies. As we reflect on the massive power
that every moment works to move the sun and earth around each other,
so every moment we have an imperative to love. This is why belief
in God cannot be merely an intellectual act occurring within certain
brain cells. Belief means action in some way. Belief and
the act of baptism are necessary for salvation; but some NT passages
speak as if faith alone saves. This is reconciled by understanding
that faith, true faith, includes works. James reasons that there
is no distinction between true faith and works. They are part of
the same nexus. Thus when we read in the NT of belief in Christ,
the normal construction with a dative case was dropped and instead
a preposition is used with the verb- belief into Christ
is the idea, with implied reference to baptism into Him
and an active life in Him as a result of our belief. To
be brethren in Christ is not to just believe Christ or God, but
to believe into them in practice. R.T. Lovelock comments:
" The NT writers felt the importance of this utter trust in
God so strongly, that they originated a new construction in their
language to emphasise the concept and force it upon the attention
of their readers" (3).
Repentance is elicited by an appreciation of God's Name of Yahweh. Joel appealed: " Rend your heart…and turn to the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and plenteous in mercy" (Joel 2:13)- alluding clearly to the declaration of the Name in Ex. 34. Because of how God is, as revealed in His Name of Yahweh, because mercy and forgiveness are paramount within the texture of His very personality…therefore, repent. Thus Asaph prayed: " Help us...purge away our sins, for thy name's sake" (Ps. 79:9). Reflection on the Name inspired his faith in forgiveness and thus helped his repentance. It did the same for David (Ps. 25:11) and for Jeremiah (Jer. 14:7,21).
" What doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve [Him]" (Dt. 10:12) is the basis of Mic. 6:8: " What doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" . " To love [God]" is paralleled with " to love mercy" . If we love God, we will be merciful as He is. To know Him in truth is to actively be like Him. As God giveth to all men richly, so we should be rich in good works and sharing to others (1 Tim. 6:17,18). The fear or worship of Yahweh is paralleled with " to depart from evil" (Job 28:28); one cannot know / fear Him and remain in the ways of sin. " Prepare to meet thy God, O Israel. For...Yahweh, the Lord of hosts, is his name" (Am. 4:12,13). Who God is, as expressed in His Name, is an imperative to prepare ourselves to meet Him in judgment. The confession of the Name is paralleled with repentance in 2 Chron. 6:24. There we read that if Israel sin and repent ''and confess thy name' they will be forgiven. But instead of ''confess thy name'' we expect ''confess their sins: the point being that to confess the name is effectively to confess sins. The name is the characteristics of Yahweh. The more we meditate upon them, the more we will naturally be lead to a confession of our sins, the deeper we will sense the gap between those principles and our own character. Likewise in 2 Chron. 12:6 the statement that ''the Lord is righteous'' is effectively a confession of sin. And thus we are not to bear or take the Name of Yahweh called upon us at baptism in vain- the realty of the implications of the name are not to be lost upon us.
To steal is to take the Name of Yahweh called upon us in vain (Prov. 30:9), and therefore we ask to be given only our daily bread and no more (NIV); not so much that if we are found out, the Name will be brought into disrepute, but rather that we personally will have blasphemed the imperative of Yahweh which is heavy upon us [and note how these words of Agur are applied to us in Mt. 6:11. Likewise because " God is true" , therefore it ought to be axiomatic that our words are true, as those bearing His Name (so Paul argues in 2 Cor. 1:18; 11:10). The woman of Tekoah wanted David to show mercy, and so she says: " Let the king remember Yahweh thy God, that thou wouldest not suffer the revengers of blood to destroy any more" (2 Sam. 14:11). To be aware of who Yahweh is, of the characteristics outlined in Ex. 34:5-7 that comprise His Name…this must surely affect our behaviour, seeing we bear that Name. It is an understanding of the Name that inspires our faith in forgiveness. " Though our iniquities testify against us, do thou it for thy name's sake: for our backslidings are many" (Jer. 14:7,9,21). The Name is called upon us in baptism (Jer. 14:9 = Eph. 3:15), and this is why we urge men to be baptized into the Name to wash away their sins.
Manasseh's repentance and forgiveness was associated with his knowing Yahweh. He prayed to Yahweh, but only on experiencing forgiveness did he come to know Him (2 Chron. 33:13). To really know the Name elicits forgiveness, and the experience of that forgiveness leads to knowing the Name yet further. Job went through the same; when he truly saw / perceived God, he repented and 'loathed his words' (Job 42:6 RVmg.).
The Name of God of itself elicits repentance. Faced with the wonder of who
He is, we can’t be passive to it. We realize and are convicted of
our sin sheerly by the reality of who He is, was and shall be. Heb.
13:15 speaks of the fruit of our lips, giving confession to His
Name. The “fruit of lips” in Hos. 14:2 RVmg. to which the writer
alludes is clearly enough, in the context, the confession of sin.
And the context in Heb. 13:12 is that Christ’s blood was shed to
sanctify us. That declaration of the Name elicits a confession of
sin, albeit in words of praise, to His Name. Mic. 6:9 has the same
theme. When the Lord’s voice calls to the city demanding repentance,
“the man of wisdom shall see [perceive] thy name”- i.e. repent.
We come to know God's Name in practice through the cycles of sin-repentance-forgiveness
by God which we all pass through. It is through this process that
we come to know the very essence of God's Name. Thus Is. 43:25 LXX:
"I am '"I AM", who erases your iniquities".
We come to know His Name, that it really is ("I am")
all about forgiveness and salvation of sinners.
Forgetting the Name of Yahweh was associated in David’s inspired thinking with a wrong attitude in “the secrets of the heart” (Ps. 44:20,21). By contrast, remembering / being aware of the Name affects our innermost being, the secrets of our heart, the hidden self which others don’t see.
Manasseh is criticized for placing an idol in the very place where God's Name of Yahweh was meant to dwell (2 Chron. 33:7). He replaced the invisible things- the more abstract things of the characteristics of God which the Name speaks of- by something material and visible. We make the same mistake when we turn away from true spirituality and become lost in physical works. If Judah had not forgotten the Name [and this must refer to their lack of appreciation of it rather than forgetting the letters JHVH], then they wouldn’t have served Baal and other gods (Jer. 23:27).
The Manifestation Of God
God's Name was called upon us at baptism into the Name. This bearing of His Name means that the principles of that Name bear rule over us in our lives: " We are thine: thou never barest rule over them; thy name was not called upon them" (Is. 63:19 AV mg.). The Name is called upon us; and therefore and thereby we are Yahweh's servants, dominated by His principles and character. Because the Name was called upon the temple, therefore it was simply impossible that those who realized this could worship idols in it (2 Kings 21:4,7); whatever has God's Name called upon it, whatever bears His image, must be devoted to Him alone. The Lord pointed out that this applies to our very bodies, which being in God's image should be given over to Him.
Quite simply, who God is should inspire us to be like Him; to copy His characteristics [the things of His Name] in our personalities. We must be " perfect" as our Father is; " be ye holy" , because He is holy (1 Pet. 1:14-16); " kind one to another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, even as God forgave…be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children" (Eph. 4:32; 5:1);" merciful, as your Father also is merciful" (Lk. 6:36). Prov. 19:11RV uses language frequently applied to Yahweh Himself and applies it to the wise man: " The discretion of a man maketh him slow to anger; and it is his glory to pass over a transgression" . And thus Phinehas was commended for being " jealous with my jealousy" (Num. 25:11 RV)- his emotion at that time was a mirror of that of God Himself.
God's Name of Yahweh is essentially "I am".
If only He is God, it follows that we should never 'play
God' but rather seek to manifest Him. We may recoil at the suggestion
we ever seek to 'play God'; but every time we judge another, every
time we assume we know ultimately best, that we alone see the end
from the beginning, that we have to make high level decisions which
affect the destinies of others, or when we conclude that a person
is not really able to have a part in God's plan, we are doing just
that- playing God. I wonder whether or not Elihu fell into this
trap in how he treated Job, power-brokering as it were between a
man and his God. He describes himself as "he that is perfect
in knowledge", the very title for God Almighty (Job 36:4; 37:16).
Grasping the real significance of the Name means we will seek to
manifest that Name of Yaweh but not 'play God', even though the
two things can appear dangerously similar. ‘God manifestation’ doesn’t
mean playing God. Joseph held himself back from being vindictive
against his brothers by saying that he could not do so, because
if he did, he would be acting ‘in God’s place’ (Gen. 50:19). His
fear of ‘playing God’ meant that he wouldn’t presume to judge them.
All too easily, a too simplistic view of ‘God manifestation’ can
lead us to assume that we are to judge and condemn others, thus
arrogating to ourselves what is only and rightly God’s personal
prerogative. This problem perhaps is reflected in the way that I
observe that those I know who speak the most of ‘God manifestation’
[and misunderstand it] tend to also be the most condemnatory and
judgmental Christians I have ever met. It’s not that ‘God manifestation’
isn’t Biblical. It’s rather that we can’t interpret it to mean that
we can go all the way and ‘play God’.
Whatever carried the name of a person was seen as his property.
If a city was conquered, it bore the name of the conqueror (2 Sam.
12:28); the names of owners were on their property (Ps. 49:12);
and in this context, God's Name is over His people (Dt. 28:10).
So to bear God's Name is to recognize His complete ownership and
even conquest of us. And yet there's a significant twist to all
this in Is. 43:1: "I have called you by your name,
because you are mine". It seems like a slip- we expect God
to say that He has called us by His Name, because we are
His. But no- He wishes us to bear both His Name and our own name,
He doesn't wish to subsume us beneath His ownership and manifestation
to the point that we are not significant as persons.
There are several connections between there being one Name of God-
one set of principles with which He identifies Himself- and unity
between believers. David bad his people exalt God's Name "
together" , in unity (Ps. 34:3). The fact that there will be
one Lord and His Name one in the future will inspire unity amongst
the whole world. By being kept "in the name", we are made
one (Jn. 17:11)- by sharing in and developing that unique set of
characteristics that comprise God's Name / personality, unity between
us is enabled by the love, forgiveness, justice etc. which we will
show. The fact we carry God's Name means that in some sense God
will act upon us and for us over and above our own freewill effort
and personal worthiness. We are forgiven our sins and kept by God
in the paths of righteousness for His Name's sake, for the sake
of the fact we bear His Name (Ps. 23:3; 25:11; 79:9). Thus the Name
and our being in it, having God's characteristics called upon us
in imputed righteousness, is all of grace. And we should show that
grace to others in the Name, treat them by grace as God treats us
by grace, for the sake of their being in the Name. The connection
between grace and the Name is brought out in Jer. 14:7, where Jeremiah
recognizes that "though out iniquities testify against us,
do thou it for thy name's sake". Even though so classically
undeserving, Israel were saved "for His Name's sake" (Ps.
106:8; Ez. 20:9; 36:22 etc.)- and the same applies to the New Israel,
baptized into the same saving Name of grace. They were not punished
according to their sins for the Name's sake which they carried,
and so will it be with us (Is. 48:9)- but we have to treat others
baptized into the same covering Name in this same way as we are
Faith In Prayer
The Name of Yahweh / characteristics of God inspire faith in Him. The more we know of Him, the more we believe. There is a magnetism in knowing His character, just as there was and is in knowing the person of His Son. The Hebrew word 'Amen' is derived from the Hebrew emeth meaning truth, trustworthiness, faithfulness. By saying this at the end of a prayer we show our faith in the essence of the Name. Perceiving the implications of the Name therefore deepens our faith in prayer. The Name speaks of the Father's desire to respond to His children. The root word ehyeh from which 'Yahweh' is derived occurs 50 times, mainly in the context of God's help and comfort in real situations. This is the practical nature of the things expressed in the Name.The repeated references to God’s Name in Ex. 3 and 6 had a very practical context. Israel needed to summon all their faith to believe that actually, they were not in a hopeless situation there in the concentration camps of Egypt. Even when they were given no straw and told to make the same number of bricks, the comfort they are given is to remember the Name of their God, who had acted according to that Name in the past, and would do so in the future for them- because He is and will be who He has been.
The Name And Unanswered Prayer
At the time of the burning bush, the people knew Yahweh's Name as a word- because
"By my name Yahweh was I not known?" (Ex. 6:3), and clearly
enough the patriarchs had been aware of the Yahweh Name. But their
point was that they didn't see from His Name, just as a word, what
He was really like, and what He could do for them. The Egyptians
and others with whom Israel had had contact invoked their gods by
pronouncing their name, and expected a miracle to happen. Presumably
Israel had tried doing this with the word 'Yahweh'- and nothing
happened. Moses put the problem to God in Ex. 6, and the response
was "Ehyeh asher ehyeh". "I am that I am"
isn't a purely correct translation, because the Hebrew verb used
doesn't mean simply existence in an abstract sense. It refers rather
to being there / present / being someone or something for someone.
Martin Buber, in my judgment one of the finest of the many fine
Jewish minds to have engaged with this matter of the Name, concluded:
"'I am that I am' could only be understood as an avoiding of
the question, as a statement which withholds any information"
(4). I would put it somewhat more gently, in saying that God was
saying that He will be present with us, will be what Israel ultimately
needs, without defining precisely in what sense. Because we're mere
humans, we don't know what to ask of God as we should; and His very
Name is the comfort that He will be for us as we need, with our
eternal salvation in mind. God seemed to have encouraged Israel
to understand this by going on to promise simply that "I shall
be [ehyeh] present" (Ex. 3:12; 4:12). He wanted them
to trust that He knew best how to bring them to salvation; He didn't
want them to invoke His Name in the primitive way the Egyptians
did with their gods, hoping for a quick-fix miracle. God is only
ehyeh for His people; and there came a terrible moment
when He had to tell them through the prophets that "You are
not my people and I am not ehyeh for you" (Hos. 1:9).
Israel lost this 'presence' of their God. And we know that we are
His people by the constant sense we have of the hand of Providence
in our lives, even through the unanswered prayers that reveal an
altogether higher and ultimately Divine game plan in place in our
lives. But like Israel before Moses, we wish for the quick fix,
the waving of the wand to resolve the issues, the sense of the saving
presence of God in our experiences, working out His ultimate plan
of delivering us from Egypt / this world and from ourselves.
Endless Inspiration To Seek Relationship With The Father
Ps. 9:10 parallels knowing the Name of Yahweh with seeking God.
To know God's Name is to seek Him. The more we enter into the depths
of the Name, the more we will seek the Father; and in this sense,
the Name is an endless inspiration to know the Father better and
better, closer and closer, world without end. The whole declaration
of God's Name to Moses is actually part of a mutuality between God
and Moses. Moses has just commented: "Who am I to bring Israel
out?" (Ex. 3:11). And God alludes to this in His answer, for
His declaration of His Name hinges around the idea of "Who
am I? I am...". The implication of the Name seems to be "I
will be who I am / I am who I will be"- i.e. 'I will be God
for you' (5). Surely the idea of the Name being declared in this
way was to assure a doubting, depressed Moses that God will be God,
will be true to Himself, and therefore will be God for us in all
aspects, all places, situations. This is what the Name is really
all about- assurance. For that was the context in which God declared
it to Moses, as part of a relationship with that man. It's been
observed that whenever God speaks about His Name, it is in the context
of His emphasizing His huge commitment to Israel as His people,
often in the face of their weakness (Ex. 12:12; 15:26; 20:2; Ez.
20:5,6) (6). The very meaning of God's Name is of itself encouraging-
although it is somewhat masked in English translations. God 'is'
not just in the sense that He exists, but in that He 'is' there
with and for us. Von Rad puts this in more theological language
when commenting upon Ex. 3:14: "It is to be understand in the
sense of 'being present', 'being there' and therefore precisely
not in the sense of absolute, but of relative and efficacious, being-
I will be there (for you)" (7). The verb behind 'YHWH' was
"originally causative", i.e. God not only 'is' but He
causes things to happen (8). We aren't to understand Him as passive,
just a stone cold Name... but rather passionately active and causative
in our sometimes apparently static and repetitive lives.
According to Jn. 17:3 and its various Old Testament foundations,
to know God is to live for ever. Eternal life is all about knowing
His Name. Hos. 6:2,3 LXX puts it like this: "We shall rise
[from the dead] and live in His presence, and have knowledge; we
shall press forward to know the Lord". If we start knowing
God now, and press ever forward to know His Name yet more... we
have started the essence of the life which we will eternally live.And
of course 'knowing the Lord' involves a personal union with Christ,
experience and relationship with Him, of which intellectual knowledge
is only a part. For in John's Gospel, seeing, knowing and believing
are related; "he that has seen me has seen the Father"
(Jn. 14:7-9) is paralleled with "If you believe in God, believe
in me" (Jn. 14:1). We start the process of knowing the Father's
Name in this life; and in this sense we embark upon what will be
for us [by His grace] the experience of the eternal life.
(1) For more on this see A.D. Norris, What is His Name? (London:
Aletheia Books, 1985). The only insistence I would have is that
the word 'Jehovah' isn't the real name of God. "Jehovah is
a hybrid form of the divine name which was produced by combining
the four consonants YHWH with the vowels of the noun adonai,
meaning Lord"- R.E. Clements, Exodus (Cambridge: C.U.P.,
1972) p. 24.
(2) Another NT allusion to the name may be found
in 1 Jn. 3:16,19,24, where we read of us having known [aorist past
tense], presently knowing, and knowing in the future- knowing the
Father, whose Name spans past, present and future.
(3) R.T. Lovelock, Salvation In Jesus
(Notes Of The Central London Bible Class, 1954) p. 39.
(4) Martin Buber, Moses (New York: Harper & Row, 1958)
p. 43; also see his On The Bible (New York: Schocken Books,
1982) p. 59.
(5) See Terrence Fretheim, Exodus (Louisville: John Knox
Press, 1991) p. 63.
(6) A major study and lengthy exemplification of this is to be
found in Walther Zimmerli, I Am Yahweh (Atlanta: John Knox
Press, 1982) pp. 1-28.
(7) Gerhard von Rad, Old Testament Theology (London: S.C.M.,
1962), Vol. 1 p. 180.
(8) James Muilenburg, The Way Of Israel (London: Routledge
& Kegan Paul, 1962) p. 44.