“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!

Reading Expectantly

Many people today are driven by their “to-do-list.”  Some will write one up at the start of each day and add to it throughout the day hoping to cross off most everything when it is bedtime.  Others have a mental list of things they need to get done before they can call it quits for the day.  Certainly I am not saying “Down with to-do-lists.”  It is simply to point out how many of us The questionnaireare task oriented.  This on top of the fact that we desire immediate gratification adds some interesting elements to how we approach the Scriptures.  Get this project, assignment, job done quickly so I can move on to the next thing.

When we have “Read the Bible” on our to-do-list we do well to remind ourselves to come to the text and spend some time reading it.  This is a great thing.  However, because our minds race to the next thing on our list (mental or physical) we sometimes read a chapter or a few chapters and come away not really remembering what we just read.  This makes it difficult for us to then meditate on it since it is not readily available in our minds (see Psalm 1).

My encouragement to you today is to read the Bible expectantly.  I wholeheartedly agree with the author of Hebrews that “…the Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).  When we approach the text with excitement and an eagerness to hear from God through His word we change our approach to reading the word from “something to check off my list” to “what is God going to show me today?”  Rather than being a task to complete our reading of the Scriptures becomes a joy as we anticipate the Spirit of truth revealing the truths of the Scriptures to us (cf. John 16:12-15).

The following are a couple quick thoughts on how to read the Bible expectantly.  Certainly this is not a special formula but rather some things which may help you, depending on how you are wired, to read expectantly.

  1. Pray for a heart to be focused on what you are reading, rather than other things you need/want to do, and for eyes to see the truths of the Scriptures.
  2. Utilize pen and paper, or your iSomething, to jot down notes, questions, or verses you would like to memorize.  Underline verses that God is using as a way of encouraging, challenging, or convicting you.
  3. Be hopeful that you will better understand who God is, the One who desires to have a relationship with you.  Now hope is less about wishing for luck and more about looking forward with confidence.  In this case, confidence that God wants you to know more about Him and about your great need for Him.
  4. Share with others the truths God has been revealing to you through His word.