“Y” is for Yahweh

“Y” is for Yahweh.  This is the personal name of God Himself.  Maybe you are wondering, “If it is God’s personal name, then why don’t we see it in Scripture?”  It actually appears in Scripture more than 6,800 times!  Now you might be wondering if we are reading the same Bible.  In our English Bibles the name Yahweh appears most frequently as, LORD.  This is to distinguish it from the word, Lord.  You can see the word is the same in English but distinguished by the use of all capitals in the first example and a capital “L” with lower case “ord” in the second.  The reason for this is that they translate two different Hebrew words.

A Quick Grammatical Look

The Hebrew word for Yahweh consist of the Hebrew consonants yhwh (yod-he-waw-he), and is called the Tetragrammaton, because of it contains four letters, hence YHWH.  It has been regarded as the most sacred name of God, and in fact, the incommunicable name.  Jews feared speaking the name because Lev. 24:16 says, “Whoever blasphemes the name of the Lord shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall stone him. The sojourner as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death.”  So when the Jews read the Scriptures whenever they came upon those four consonants, YHWH, they would say ‘Adonai or ‘Elohim.  ‘Adonai is translated in English as “Lord” like we already looked at above and ’Elohim is translated as “God” most often.  ’Adonai or “Lord” is a title of God referring to His absolute sovereignty over creation.  It is an exalted title of God.  In the Greek translation of the OT (the Septuagint or LXX) the translators substituted kurios which means “Lord,” with the divine name YHWH.  It is likely for these reasons why most English translations translate YHWH “LORD.”

Jehovah, a familiar name for God to English readers at least, is not actually a Hebrew word found in Scripture.  Ancient Hebrew when written did not use vowels but the appropriate vowel sounds were passed on orally.  The divine name YHWH (the four consonants) received the vowels from ‘Adonai with a couple consonant changes to get the name Jehovah.  It is highly unlikely that this is the correct pronunciation of the name of God.

Meaning of God’s Name

Let’s transition away from some of the grammatical and technical side of the name of God and focus on its meaning.  What does this name reveal about God and His character?  For this is the far greater questions.  Exodus 3:13-14 is crucial for understanding the meaning of the divine name, YHWH.  It is here in Exodus 3 that God appears to Moses in a burning bush as Moses cares for his father-in-law’s flock (vv. 1, 4).  The LORD (YHWH) tells Moses what He is about to do in delivering His people from the hand of the Egyptians and He is going to use Moses (vv. 7-8, 10).  Moses is uncertain, and will come up with a lot of excuses not to go (Ex. 4).  But here in Exodus 3:13-14 we read, “Then Moses said to God, ‘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?’ God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you.’”  A number of things are revealed about the name YHWH from the explanation here in Ex. 3:14 where God says, “I am who I am.”  There is a variety of explanations of what this name means including: (1) that God is self-existent and therefore not dependent on anything else for His own existence; (2) that God is the Creator and Sustainer of all that exists; (3) that God is immutable in His being and character and thus is not in the process of becoming something different from what He is; (4) that God is eternal in His existence (ESV Study Bible, 149).  Then we should look in the context where God speaks these words to Moses and it is in promising to be with him as God uses Moses to lead the people of Israel out of Egyptian bondage.  YHWH is telling Moses that He will be for the people in Moses’ day what He was for Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in that He is faithful to His covenant (see Ex. 3:6, 16).

While there are lots of passages we could look at since the name of God is used so frequently in the OT let’s stick to the book of Exodus.  In Exodus 20 we find the giving of the Ten Commandments.  But before God lays out each of those commandments there is a prologue you might say.  Exodus 20:2 says, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”  Within this verse we learn a number of things about Yahweh’s relation to the people of Israel.  First, Yahweh has a personal relationship with the people.  He is “the LORD your God” (emphasis mine).  Second, Yahweh is a God of grace for it was He who “brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”  Certainly much more is wrapped up in what the divine name Yahweh tells us about His character.  But it amazing to think that the Holy One, who is so high and exalted, is willing to be in relationship with those who put their faith in Jesus Christ.  That He lavished grace upon us who were His enemies from birth.  All praise and honor belong to Yahweh alone!

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“W” is for Wrath

“W” is for Wrath.  While there is no need to translate or parse any aspect of this word it doesn’t mean that it isn’t regularly misunderstood.  The wrath of God is not a subject much spoken of in our culture today.  Our world would rather talk about the love of God and leave that wrath business out altogether.  This is not a surprise given the fallenness of man and of our nation.  What is the surprising offense is how the culture and its influence has seeped into the church and shaped it in regards to any number of theological subjects, the wrath of God being one, instead of the church being a light to the nations.  But as Christians many of us are oftentimes maybe embarrassed about the wrath of God because we don’t understand it.  JI Packer points out, “Why, when the Bible is vocal about it [referring to the wrath of God], should we feel obliged to be silent?” (Knowing God, 150).  Of course your liberal churches and denominations have tossed it out long ago but even inside an otherwise solid evangelical (meaning, gospel preaching and Bible believing) church, the subject of the wrath of God is all but eliminated.  Why is that?

In this week’s blog we will explore this particular attribute of God.  We will take a look at a few of the Old and New Testament texts that either speak directly about the wrath of God or are a demonstration of His wrath.  May our study of the wrath of God awaken in the Christian a burning desire for proclaiming the whole counsel of God for His glory.

What is the Wrath of God?

The wrath of God is an expression of His holiness.  Or “the doctrine that God intensely hates all sin” (Grudem, Systematic Theology, 1257).  Since God is holy (Matt 5:48; 1 Jn. 1:5) and He hates sin He cannot remain neutral in regards to it.  As Dr. Steven Lawson said, “There is divine wrath that by necessity must react against all that does not conform to the purity of His holiness” (The Attributes of God Teaching Series).  We struggle to understand this because we are not perfect, despite what a new mother might say about her child, and Scripture makes that abundantly clear (see Gen. 3; Eccl. 7:20; Rom. 3:23).  Whereas humans misdirect and misapply our anger virtually daily, “God’s wrath in the Bible is never the capricious, self-indulgent, irritable, morally ignoble thing that human anger so often is…God is only angry where anger is called for” (Packer, Knowing God, 151).   God’s wrath is the justice of God in response to our sin.

Wrath of God in the OT

Some point to various accounts in Scripture like Noah and the flood (Gen. 6-7), Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 18-19), and the Ten Plagues in Egypt (Ex. 7-12) as examples of the wrath of God gone out of control.  Even some Christians look at these texts among others and conclude, “Thank God that the God of the NT is a God of love.”  This too is ridiculous and reveals a lack of understanding the Bible.

Yes, God judged mankind and a catastrophic flood covered all the earth.  Yes, God rained down sulfur and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19:24).  Yes, God sent ten plagues against Egypt.  But let’s quickly recap why God did each of these things.  In reference to the worldwide flood we read, “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5).  Evil continually.  All the time.  God had been patient with man already since even just one sin deserves death and God withheld His wrath until the evil of mankind was “only evil continually.”  And thankfully God looked with favor upon Noah (6:8).  In the case of Sodom, Abraham interceded for the people there that if only ten righteous persons could be found would God destroy the city and God said He would not (Gen. 18:32).  God even had sent two angels to observe.  Certainly God knew, but He was showing them mercy by having not judged them already.  Everything was confirmed.  The men of Sodom sought to participate in homosexual acts, and while they were inhospitable among other sins (Ezek. 16:48-49) they were guilty because of an abomination (Ezek. 16:50, the same Hebrew word used in Lev. 18:22; 20:13 that links their sin to homosexuality).  Sodom knew of their sin and boasted about it (Is. 3:9).  And the people were rightly judged by God for their sin.  Lastly, in the ten plagues God was going to show the Egyptians, who worshiped many false gods, “that I am the LORD” (Ex. 7:5).  And by these plagues He was going to rescue the people of Israel from their slavery.  God gave Pharaoh plenty of opportunities to repent (Ex. 8:8, 19, 24-28; 9:11, 28; 10:5-6, 17, 24), there were ten plagues after all.  But Pharaoh continual hardened his heart and became monstrously evil, so God hardened Pharaoh’s heart and lured evil into the Red Sea where they were judged because of their sins (Ex. 14:27-28).  In the case of Pharaoh, the Sodomites, and the people living in Noah’s day each reaped what their words and actions had sown (Gal. 6:7-8).  And I pointed out how God was gracious even leading up to these just judgments.

Wrath of God in the NT

A quick look at a passage in Revelation (though more could be selected, John 3:36; Col. 3:5-6) shows how God’s wrath is very much present in the NT.  Rev. 6:15-17 says, “Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?’”  Did you catch that?  The wrath of the Lamb, Jesus the Christ.

Romans 1:16-17 beautifully shares the gospel message and the truth that “the righteous shall live by faith.”  Rom. 1:18-3:20 speaks of the utter depravity and sinfulness of man (a message consistent throughout Scripture after the Fall, Gen. 3) and mankind being without hope apart from God’s direct intervention.  Romans 1:18 says, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.”  We are by nature “children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3).  We suppress the truth in our unrighteousness, our sin.  And while the day when God’s wrath will be fully realized is yet to come there are demonstrations of that wrath right now when Paul says “God gave them up…” (Rom. 1:24, 26, 28).

As with all the other attributes of God, the wrath of God is one we as Christians should not downsize or be embarrassed by but rather praise and glorify our awesome and holy God for.  The Father sent His Son out of a great love for His elect even when we were wretched sinners who deserved His wrath.  But thanks be to God for Jesus Christ His Son through whom we’ve received grace and mercy.  May we be motivated to share with others of the wrath to come upon sinners and that only by repenting of your sins and believing in Jesus Christ can the wrath of God be removed from us for it was paid in full by Jesus Christ (Rom. 3:25-26; 1 Thess. 1:9-10).

Twenty-something

In less than a week I will be turning the big 3-0.  Personally I am quite excited about entering this new decade of life but I should state the reason is not because the twenty-somethings were terrible, in fact it has been the best decade yet.  As I take a look back on the last ten years the goodness of the Lord is there every step of the way.  Here is just a brief synopsis of my life during my twenties.

Summer of 2006, shortly after turning twenty, God opened my eyes to my sin and rebellion against Him and drew me to His Son Jesus Christ!  Even if nothing else happened in my twenties that alone would make it the greatest decade, but God was even more gracious.

Summer of 2008 I started courting (dating) my now bride Katie.  We were in a relationship for a little over a year, engaged for a year, and have celebrated five years of marriage all during my twenties.

After becoming a Christian the direction of my future plan shifted from managing a golf course to becoming a ministry intern on the campus of Oakland University.  There I served with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship beginning in the summer of 2008 and through the 2008-2009 school year.  God impressed it upon my heart to be a faithful proclaimer of His truth in the local church.  Therefore God set my sights on the next step He had for me which involved going to seminary and pursuing the pastorate.

I spent four years in seminary (2009-2013) and grew tremendously not only in my theology but also in my service.  God used the time my wife and I spent at North Park Baptist Church in tremendous ways as we served Him.  God opened the door for us to move to Lake City when I received a call to pastor Calvary Baptist Church, so we packed up and headed there the start of 2014.

Backing up just a little to November 2013, we welcomed our first daughter into the world then a year-and-a-half later we welcomed our second daughter (June 2015).  So a quick recap of just some of the things that happened during my twenty-somethings looks like this: I became a Christian, husband, father, and pastor.  God has lavished His grace upon this servant of His (see Eph. 2:1-10).  You can probably see why the twenty-somethings have been the best decade yet and all the glory belongs to God alone.  Many passages come to mind but let me close with this one from 1 Thessalonians.  “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (vv. 16-18).

Tuesday Tunes

This weeks video plays parts of one of the songs from the cd project of Ligonier Ministries “Glory to the Holy One.”  The reason I selected it is because of the greater appreciation I have been given for those who play instruments or sing vocally in the discipline that is required to do well, not being a musician or vocalist myself.  This song, Highland Hymn, focuses on the beatific vision when the believer in Jesus Christ will see Him as He is.  1 John 3:1-2 says, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know Him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is.” Enjoy! 

“I” is for Inspiration

“I” is for inspiration.  Originally I had planned on addressing infallibility or inerrancy.  The problem with jumping to those without establishing the doctrine of inspiration first is that it is like putting the cart before the horse.

The doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture is quite foundational to our faith.  You may wonder why we waited until now to talk about it if it is so important.  That is namely because there are eight letters before “I” in the English language.  In all seriousness this doctrine affirms something is true about the Bible, understood here as 66 books (39 OT & 27 NT), that is not true of any other book.  This includes those books that have been written (that we have no knowledge of), all the current books on the market, and all the books yet to be written.  The Christian must affirm that only the Bible is inspired.  Why must the Christian affirm this?  Because the Bible affirms this truth.

In our newsletter this week we will first take a look at a couple of passages that state this.  Then we will follow up with a common objection to the doctrine of inspiration.  We will finish up with our response to that objection and what it all boils down to.

What Does the Bible Say?

Second Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (emphasis added).  This passage makes it clear that the Scriptures are “top-down,” meaning it is God’s word, His truth, to us.  It is not mans’ opinions about God and what they think God is like.  We hear this a lot today, “I like to think of God as…”  J. Douma says, “The difference between idolatry (worshiping images) and ideolatry (worshiping mental images) is only one letter” (found in The Ten Commandments, 64, a great book on the subject).  But Paul makes it clear here that this idea of “I like to think of God as…” is not what we find in the Scriptures.

What Paul is saying here in 2 Timothy is that the words of Scripture are not merely the product of human writers writing what they wanted to without any guidance so that the end product was their intended goal.  This point is made clear also in 2 Peter 1:21 which says, “For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”  This passage in 2 Peter along with the passage in 2 Timothy tells us that the words of Scripture are simultaneously divine and human.  What do we mean by this?  At times God did speak and the authors wrote what God said to them (see Ex. 20:1-17; Is. 8:1-2; Jer. 30:1-3).  But God did not strictly give us His word through dictation, or to verbally order what is to be said, in fact more often than not we are able to see the style, vocabulary, or grammar of any given author.  God utilized the personalities of these authors to communicate His truth.  So the Scriptures are “breathed out by God” but not to the exclusion of human instrumentality.  Most certainly God protected these authors as they wrote so that they gave us what He wanted us to have, but they still put the pen to the paper.  Thus the Scriptures are human and divine.  Today you hear that Scripture is not divine revelation but merely human creation.  God’s word speaks directly against this attack.

One Common Objection

This brings us to one of the most common objections to the doctrine of inspiration.  Some will argue that our belief in God’s word as Scripture is circular.  We believe that the Scripture is God’s word because it claims to be and its claims are true because Scripture is God’s word.  While this is a kind of circular argument it does not render it invalid or false.  To claim anything has absolute authority, as Christians do in regards to the Scriptures, you must appeal to that authority for its proof.  Look at these examples to help make this point clear (found in Grudem, Systematic Theology, 79):

  • My reason is my ultimate authority because it seems reasonable to me to make it so.
  • I know there can be no ultimate authority because I do not know of any such ultimate authority.
  • The findings of human sensory experiences are the ultimate authority for discovering what is real and what is not, because our human senses have never discovered anything else: thus, human sense experience tells me that my principle is true.

These are three of the many worldviews people today are operating from and each one is circular.  On the side of Scripture is the fact that there are external evidences that support its claim of ultimate authority in regards to various prophecy fulfillments that even those opposed to the Scriptures would affirm.  Stephen Nichols points out the fact that, “These things (external evidences) don’t prove Scripture but support the argument the Scripture makes for itself” (lecture from “Why We Trust the Bible”).  And what argument is that?  That “All Scripture is breathed out by God” (2 Tim. 3:16a).

What it Boils Down To

Why don’t we all agree about the authority of the Scriptures?  Sin.  Sin has corrupted our perception and analysis of both God and His word.  We could then ask since all of us are guilty of sin, why do any of us hold the view that the Scriptures are God’s word and authoritative for my life?  The work of the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit ensured that the words the author’s penned were God’s very words (cf. 2 Pt. 1:21) and enables us to see God’s word for the truth that it is (cf. John 17:17).  Imagine viewing the night sky with your naked eye and then looking at it through a telescope.  Those multitudes of stars that you now see were always there though you could not see it without the aid of the telescope (example from Nichols, “Why We Trust the Bible”).  In a far greater way, the Holy Spirit causes us to be “born again” and enables us to overcome the gross effects of sin and come to an understanding and belief that the Scriptures are the very words of God and His truth for our good and His glory.