God’s Name

What do we mean, when we join the Psalmist in praising God this way:

“Your promise gives me life.  Your statutes have been my songs in the house of my sojourning.  I remember Your name in the night, O YHWH…” 

Psalm 119:50, 54-55

What does it mean to remember His name?  Does it matter what we call Him?  When we pray, or when we talk to our children, or talk amongst our friends, or…ever?  What is so important about God’s Name?

Notice the Psalmist says ‘name’ and not ‘names.’  The focus is on the name God revealed to Moses, a name that seemed too sacred to most Jewish people to even utter.  This name does more than give us something to verbally call our God, it reveals more of His character than Moses was aware of yet.  This name signifies the truth of who God is toward His people.  

To remember this name means this Psalmist is thinking about this name, musing upon the significance of this name, and delighting in the knowledge of God.  This name is only for those who know Him.  And as Jesus revealed much later, to know Him is eternal life.  

The One True God revealed to Moses:

“Then Moses said to God, “Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I will say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you.’  Now they may say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?”  God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM” and He said, ‘thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, “I Am has sent me to you.’”  God, furthermore, said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘YHWH, 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 this is My memorial name to all generations.”  

Exodus 3:13-15

His memorial name. A name to be remembered.

Think of all we can glean from these verses!  God is the God of the living, He is ever at work in all generations, His purposes are unchanging–there is never a ‘plan b’ with Him, He is the only Being with Life in Himself–the only one whose name could possibly be I AM.  This God created family, and His plans continue in family, though we learn later that His family is comprised of children of promise, not fleshly offspring (Romans 9; Galatians 3-4; John 1).  

YHWH said to Moses, “…for you have found favor in My sight and I have known you by name.”  Then Moses said, “I pray You, show me Your glory!”  And He said, “I Myself will make all My goodness pass before You, and will proclaim the name of YHWH before you; and i will be gracious to whom I will be gracious and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.” 

Exodus 33:17-19

YHWH.  Pronounced differently than the “Yahweh” we find in modern praise songs.  That “W” sounds more like an “f” making the last sound not “way” but “fuh.”  (I learned all this from my Hebrew professor in years as a Biblical Studies undergrad).  YHWH knows His own, by name. And YHWH proclaims His own name of YHWH as a special blessing.

This name was the special covenant name given to God’s covenant people.  His people have the confidence to use this name, and we are blessed as we ponder all that is meant by YHWH.  YHWH is rendered LORD in our English texts.  So as you read, and see LORD, think–ahhh, the name given that only His people may call Him, signifying all that He is for them!  And this name calls to mind all that He has done, and has promised to do!

Unlike the gods of all the surrounding nations, named by the people, YHWH is faithful, and hears, and acts on behalf of His people. 

“YHWH descended in the cloud and stood there with him as he called upon the name of YHWH.  Then YHWH passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “YHWH, YHWH God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in hesed and truth; who keeps hesed for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin, yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished.” 

Exodus 34:5-7

To Remember, Memorize

To remember His name in the night, the Psalmist must have heard these passages often, read or copied them, and been able to recall them.  Beloved, we must set aside time to slowly muse upon His words, to journal them, to sit in them.  Abiding.  Then we too can remember.  

“…fear this honored and awesome name, YHWH our God…”

Deuteronomy 28:58

As we grow in grace and knowledge, as we grow in Christlikeness and in having the mind of Christ; we too will be in awe of this honored and awesome name, we will fear Him with the reverence due Him.  We will revere our King, who was and is and is to come!

This One True God, in Three Persons

When Jesus came, He revealed even more, that we might come to know Him as Lord.  As LORD.  (Next time you speed read through all of Paul’s epistles, take note of how often he refers to Jesus as Lord!)  To be Christian is to be Trinitarian.  This mystery will never be fully mathematically graphed out by us, and many err and lead us into heresy when they try to turn the Trinity into a cute graphic for not-so-thought-provoking-sunday-school-lessons.  We must not succumb to this.  

God does not share His glory with another, yet the Father shares glory with the Son and with the Spirit; and the Son and Spirit both delight to glorify the Father and each other.  If you, again speed read the New Testament, look for this–you will see it.  And is all of this part of God’s name?  YES!!!

“And Jesus came up and spoke to them saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’” 

Matthew 28:18-20

What name do we make disciples in?  The name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Our God:  one essence-three persons.  The first couple of times that you ponder this in your christian walk may make your head spin.  The next several times, a bit less spinning, perhaps some excitement increasing…  Never will this Name grow stale.  Never will He cease to make Himself more known to His people!

“He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and disclose Myself to him.”  Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, ‘Lord, what then has happened that You are going to disclose Yourself to us and not to the world?’…”  “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word…”  

John 15:21-22; 17:6

Beloved, let us ponder who He reveals Himself to be; let us remember; let us even find comfort and joy in pondering His Name in the night–sleepless nights, painful nights, anxious nights, nights when we are so filled with anticipation that we cannot sleep (that was me, the night before going to summer camp, or on vacation, or Christmas Eve…).  

For further reflection:

Deuteronomy 5:11; 6:4-25; 7:9; 10:8, 20-21; 12:8-14; 14:23-27; 18:15-20; 32:1-4

Psalm 5:11; 7:17; 9:2ff; 18:49; 20:1-7; 22:22; 29:2; 34:3; 44:8, 20; 

These are only a small selection of the many passages that can help us grow in understanding just how wonderful it is to know the One True God by Name, YWHW, and Father, Son, Holy Spirit.  And then can you imagine, the true wonder, of being known to Him by name, and indeed having been named by Him?  

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith…” 

Ephesians 3:14-16

See the Trinity, at work together–never separate, never operating separably as modalistic heresies would have us think.  See that your name is more precious than you may have ever realized?  And now, move forward to Revelation 2:17, and ponder the time when you know the new name He gives you–when all things will have been made new!   

One last point to ponder–the call of humans to name things.  Human beings, having been created in His image, are given the vocation of filling and subduing the earth, and having compassionate care and dominion over all of His creation.  The first thing Adam did in this vocation was to name creatures.  Over the course of history, each time a new thing has been identified, what a joy for the scientist or naturalist or archaeologist or historian or other professional to name it!  Or, having been creative ourselves, and designed or made or written or painted or sculpted or otherwise formed something, to name it.  Or to bring life into this world, or adopt a new little loved one into your family, and to give that one a name, even your familial name.  Ask the Holy Spirit to grant you an understanding of how special this calling is. 

“Your promise gives me life.  Your statutes have been my songs in the house of my sojourning.  I remember Your name in the night, O YHWH…” 

Psalm 119:50, 54-55

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