By Ron Ross (February, 2012)
God has many wonderful attributes and they all cause His followers to worship Him. The blessed bonus for believers is that He promises to be with them. We are invited to experience His Presence. The name YAHWEH provides a deep, personal insight into His divine nature. He is the covenant-keeping God. We can trust Him. He is personal and not an inanimate, lifeless symbol.
‘The most important and the most significant name is the great name of Yahweh (translated Jehovah in the AV” according to Martin Lloyd Jones in his book “Great Doctrines of the Bible – God the Father, God the Son”. He said, “This, the Bible itself tells us, is the best name of all. It means that God describes Himself as I am that I am.”
YAHWEH is often mentioned in English as Jehovah and written as LORD with a capital L and small upper case O-R-D. The Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) actually uses the name YAHWEH in its translation. They explain: “Yahweh is used more often in the HCSB than in most Bible translations because the word LORD in English is a title of God and does not accurately convey to modern readers the emphasis on God’s personal name in the original Hebrew.”
LORD in English can convey images of an impersonal, even authoritarian Master. YAHWEH has much more to offer. The Expositors Bible Commentary: “The practice of rendering the name of the Lord, Yahweh, by a title (“the LORD”) keeps us from sensing the richness of Israel’s religious experience and practice.
“The title lacks the emotive quality affected by the relationship between God and his people. The Lord had revealed his name (YHWH or Yahweh) to Israel. They knew not only that God has a name but also the pronunciation of the name: the four sacred letters—YHWH (tetragrammaton).
“Though we are not sure of the precise pronunciation, we accept a common form of pronouncing them as Yahweh. This covenant name was holy (Exod 20:7) but also precious.
Exodus 20: 7 “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD (YAHWEH) will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.
Did you see the movie “O God?” George Burns plays God himself, who has come to earth to speak with a grocery manager named Jerry Landers. In one of their conversations, Jerry, without thinking, says to himself, “O God!”And God says, “Yes, Jerry? What is it?” And Jerry says, “Huh?? Oh, it’s nothing, Lord. It’s just an expression. A figure of speech. Nothing more.” And then God says, “Jerry, that’s why I’m here. I want people to know that I’m not just a figure of speech. I’m more than just a phrase that people blurt out when they get frustrated. I want you to tell people to take me seriously. That I am the Lord!”
God is a Person. He is to be experienced and we are encouraged to fellowship with Him
Because God longs to enjoy close and intimate fellowship with us, it is not surprising how often the name YAHWEH is used throughout Psalms.
Consider this heartfelt prayer to YAHWEH:
Psalm 3:1-8 “O LORD, how my adversaries have increased! Many are rising up against me. Many are saying of my soul, “There is no deliverance for him in God.”But You, O LORD, are a shield about me, My glory, and the One who lifts my head.
I was crying to the LORD with my voice, and He answered me from His holy mountain. I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the LORD sustains me. I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people who have set themselves against me round about. Arise, O LORD; save me, O my God! For You have smitten all my enemies on the cheek; You have shattered the teeth of the wicked. Salvation belongs to the LORD; Your blessing be upon Your people!
An example of the love of Yahweh is found in Psalm 7, where the psalmist, as on so many occasions, uses several references to his beloved God: Psalm 7:17 “I will give thanks to the LORD (YAHWEH) according to His righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the LORD (YAHWEH) Most High. (Most High – Elyon)
Psalm 68:4 “Sing to God, sing praises to His name; Lift up a song for Him who rides through the deserts, Whose name is the LORD, and exult before Him.” Whose name is YAHWEH’ is the more accurate phrasing.
How more personal and effective might our worship and praises be, if we connected to the name Yahweh and its deep, intimate meaning? Psalm. 86:15 “But You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness and truth.”
Psalm103:8 “The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.” (see also Ps. 111: 4; 116: 5; 145: 8)
Martin Lloyd Jones wrote: “Thus you can describe this name Jehovah as the great covenant name of God. You find the Bible saying that God has entered into covenants with His people. He made a covenant with Adam. He made a covenant with Noah. He made a covenant with His own Son. “God is a God who makes covenants—He promises, he covenants, to do certain things. Now when He does that you generally find that He describes Himself by that great name Jehovah. And what a wonderful conception it is! This almighty being, whom we worship, who is self-existent in Himself, nevertheless chooses to reveal and manifestly to bind Himself to mere creatures of time like ourselves; to those whom He has brought into being.” (The Perfections of YAHWEH – The Expositors Bible Commentary)
The LORD described His own YAHWEH-ness to Moses. Exodus 34:5 – 7 “The LORD descended in the cloud and stood there with him as he called upon the name of the LORD. Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.”
The Psalmist is able to declare ‘YAHWEH is faithful” – Psalm 86: 5 The character of YAHWEH is the basis for confidence. Psalm 27:13 “I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.”
This God of loyal fellowship has a covenant relationship with Israel. For thousands of years Israel has experienced the ‘goodness’ of God. They praise Him and trust Him because they have seen and tasted the fruit of His character. Psalm 52:9 “I will give You thanks forever, because You have done it, and I will wait on Your name, for it is good, in the presence of Your godly ones.”
Psalm 106:1 “Praise the LORD! Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting.”
Psalm 23:6 “Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD (Yahweh) forever.”
We must respond to the invitation we have from YAHWEH. He is the central figure in these words of encouragement. Psalm 139:1-5 “O LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, behold, O LORD, You know it all. You have enclosed me behind and before,
and laid Your hand upon me.”
Consider the importance of righteousness in the nature and character of YAHWEH. As we observe the mounting hatred and animosity aimed at Israel today, it will help for us to get to know the God of Israel – the covenant-keeping YAHWEH.
Psalm 4-8 “Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD (YAHWEH) is your keeper; the LORD (YAHWEH) is your shade on your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD (YAHWEH) will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The LORD (YAHWEH) will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.”
The Lord has His intense, observant eye on Israel and the people of His covenant. Have no doubt about His power and ability to be their champion.
In connection with the name YAHWEH we should consider the Hebrew word ‘saba’ which reflects the Hebrew belief, Yahweh led the armies of Israel.
Numbers 10:35,36 “Then it came about when the ark set out that Moses said, “Rise up, O LORD! And let Your enemies be scattered, and let those who hate You flee before You.” When it came to rest, he said, “Return, O LORD, to the myriad thousands of Israel.”
He is the Captain of the host. Josh. 5:13-15 “Now it came about when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing opposite him with his sword drawn in his hand, and Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us or for our adversaries?” He said, “No; rather I indeed come now as captain of the host of the LORD.”
And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and bowed down, and said to him, “What has my lord to say to his servant?”
The captain of the LORD’S host said to Joshua, “Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.
In 1 Samuel 17:45 David declared he had come to fight in the name of ‘Yahweh Sebaot, the god of the battles of Israel. This army is described as the heavenly host, the host of the heights. They are the heavenly army under the direction of Yahweh. Tsebaoth comes from the Hebrew root tsaba which means ‘to wage war.’ In its association with YAHWEH it means to ‘render service unto GOD.”
At a time when we are concerned about Iranian plans for nuclear weapons and threats to wipe Israel off the map, a study of Yahweh Tsebaoth will put the situation into perspective.
When the Bible refers to Yahweh Tsebaoth as ‘the LORD of hosts’ most often it refers to His authority over the stars. Genesis 2: 1 tells us He created all of them. Psalm 174: 4 says He knows them all by name.
”At times Scripture speaks of the Lord of Hosts leading a great army. Cherubim and seraphim; sun and moon; stars and sky; rivers and mountains; hail and snow; men and women; animals wild and tame — all these worship the Lord and are at times called to fight on His behalf.” (Names of God Bible, pg.364)
When we proclaim He is strong and mighty, the mighty warrior, the King of glory we are declaring His victory over His enemies. Psalm 24:8 “Who is the King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, The LORD mighty in battle.” You have most likely sung that verse or declared it. The important reality is that we believe it too!
Let’s reconsider what is called the Tetragrammaton. This name is made up of just four Hebrew letters – Yud, Hey, Vav, Hey and is identified in English, by the capital letters Y-H-V-H.
The JPS translation of Exodus 6: 3 says: “I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as El Shaddai, but I did not make Myself known to them by My name.”
Complete Jewish Bible: “God spoke to Moshe … “I am ADONAI. I appeared to Avraham, Yitz’chak and Ya’akov as El Shaddai, although I did not make myself known to them by my name, Yud-Heh-Vav-Heh [ADONAI].”
Net Bible translation:”I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as God Almighty, but by my name ‘the LORD’ I was not known to them.” – Ex. 6: 3
In this one verse we see the options for Bible translators. The word translated El Shaddai by the JPS is ‘God Almighty’ in the Net Bible. The Complete Jewish Bible and the Net Bible interchange the name Lord and Adonai. We must grasp the fact that Adonai and Lord are interchangeable. They refer to the same Person.
This verse requires background understanding. It is the LORD ADONAI who called Abram.
Gen. 12:1 “The LORD said to Abram, “Go forth from your native land and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” That’s the capital letters L-O-R-D meaning LORD ADONAI.
There is an interesting name connection in Genesis 17: 1 “When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am El Shaddai. Walk in My ways and be blameless.’ (Gen. 17:1) He appeared to Abram as LORD ADONAI but revealed Himself as El Shaddai – God Almighty! Maybe He was encouraging His 99 year old patriarch that the Almighty power of God would sustain and anoint him even in his older years.
Adonai is used here. Psalm 83:18 “That they may know that You alone, whose name is the LORD, are the Most High over all the earth.”
This name indicates the Lord is all we really need. His Name is sacred. His knowledge infinite – all knowing.
The early Israelites knew the Lord as Elohim. The other significant name they came to know was YAHWEH which appears 5,311 times in the Old Testament, twice as many times as ELOHIM.
Fifty times in the Bible YAH is the poetic abbreviation of the name YAHWEH. Larry Richards comments: “The name is unique among all the names of God, for it is the one personal name of God found in the Old Testament.”