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TEXT: Isaiah 12:2
SUBJECT: Names of God #2: Jehovah
Today brings us to the second sermon in our afternoon series on the Names of God. For most of us, names have very little meaning. The parents who named me 'Michael' could have as well named me 'Robert', and that-I suspect-would have had very little effect on my character or my destiny.
Bible names, on the other hand, are often very significant. When Jesus re-named Simon, Peter, the act remade the man and fitted him for his high calling. If this is true for Peter, for Abraham, Jacob, and other men, it goes double for God.
Men name the gods, but only God names God. By calling giving Himself various names, He not only distinguishes Himself from the gods of Egypt, Canaan, Babylon, and so on, but also reveals something about Himself, something Israel needed to know; something we need to know.
Last time, we looked at the name, El, and its variations, Elohim, Elohah, El-Shaddai, and so on. These names emphasize God's power, and in particular, His power in pushing back chaos and establishing order. Israel needed to know of His power, and so do we.
There is great comfort in this name to everyone in need. To the most trusted friend or family member, the most we can ask is, 'If you can help me.' For the most loving and devoted is only human and human strength is very much limited.
God's strength is unlimited. And so, the demoniac's father was wrong when he pleaded with Jesus-
If you can do anything, help us.
And the leper was right in confessing-
If you want to, you can make me clean.
There is nothing good we can ask for that is beyond the power of God-of Elohim-to do for us-
With God, all things are possible.
Elohim is a very precious name to us. And His second name is even more so. It is Yahweh or as our older Bibles sometimes spell it, Jehovah.
THE MEANINGScholars do not agree on the exact meaning of this name, but they all agree that its most important appearance is Exodus 6:3, where God appears to Moses in the burning bush-
I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and Jacob, as 'God Almighty', but by my name YAHWEH, I was not known to them.
(In many of our Bibles, YAHWEH is translated LORD in all capitals. But the Hebrew is YAHWEH or Jehovah).
The verse is somewhat peculiar because, in fact, the name YAHWEH appears many times in history before the burning bush, as early as Genesis 2:4. The fathers, therefore, did know this name. And so, what did God mean? He meant that, while they knew the name, YAHWEH, they did not know its full significance. But, on the return of Moses to Egypt, the Exodus, and the events that followed, they would know the true meaning of the name.
What is it? It is God the Loyal! The Lord who keeps His Word! The One who makes Good on His promises!
Included in this name is a sense of God's nearness. The Promise-Keeping God does not make good on His Word from afar-like a rich uncle wiring you money from Asia-but does it in person, face-to-face.
This is seen at the Burning Bush. Yawheh didn't give Moses his assignment from Heaven, but on earth, a few feet away from the man, it seems. The same is true when He gave Israel His Law. And especially, when-
The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.
The Loyal God is a personal God, the Lord who draws near to us to prove His trustworthiness.
The name appears more than 5,000 times in the Old Testament, and is usually translated LORD (in all capitals). Not even the more generic Elohim (or, 'God') occurs as often. This means He wants us to know Him by His more personal name. Not that He cares which word we use, but that we think of Him as He reveals Himself to us. And this means, in the first place, as Yahweh, the trustworthy God who comes near to meet our needs.
Sometimes the name is attached to other words, to show us how faithful the Lord is. Four in particular, stand out:
Yahweh Yireh (or, Jehovah Jireh), Genesis 22:14. This means 'the Lord sees and provides'. Abraham coined the phrase when, on Mount Moriah, as he lifted the knife to kill his own son, God provided a ram caught in a thicket to take Isaac's place. Abraham saw the ram the Lord provided. The place is thus sanctified as Yahweh Yireh, or as my Bible has it-
The Lord will provide.
A second compound is Yahweh Rapha, Exodus 15:26. This means, 'The Lord who heals you'. Israel had just crossed the Red Sea a few days before, and now, thirsty and discouraged, they come to Marah, a lake to water their livestock and re-supply themselves. The problem is: neither they nor their cattle can drink the water. It's bitter, undrinkable, maybe poison. They cry out to God and Moses in their frustration, and the Lord tells Moses to cut down a tree on the banks of the lake. When the tree hits the water, the bitter waters of Marah are made sweet. From this 'healing' of the waters, the Lord promises to heal His people from all the diseases that tormented them in Egypt, for-
I am Yahweh Rapha,
The Lord who heals you.
The third compound is Yahweh Nissi, Exodus 17:15. This means, 'The Lord is my banner'. When armies go to war, they fight under their flag or banner. When certain flags are raised, enemies flee in terror, for army that marches under it cannot be defeated. Modern leaders seldom take the field with their soldiers, but ancient ones did. They didn't lead from behind, but from the front!
When the Lord called Himself Yahweh Nissi, He meant, He stands shoulder to shoulder with His people in battle-military that first time-and spiritual wars ever since.
The fourth compound name is also the best known one: Yahweh Sabaoth.. Christians sometimes think 'Sabaoth' means 'Sabbath', but, in fact, it means 'armies', the 'hosts of Heaven' whom God commands-not to defend Himself (He needs no defense)-but to defend us from all our enemies human and demonic. II Samuel 5:10 credits David's success-not to his courage or tactics or charisma but to Yahweh Sabaoth-
And David went on and grew great, and the Lord of Hosts was with him.
If the name, Yahweh appears in compounds, it also appears in a great many human names. Pretty much all the Old Testament names that have 'AH' in them is connected to the Divine name, such as Elijah, Hezekiah, and many more.
But the most important of these names is the Hebrew Yshua, translated in our Bibles as 'Joshua'. The name means, 'Yahweh saves!' and that's what He did in the days of Joshua. He saved His people from the wilderness, from the kings who lived on its border, and finally from the ten nations that occupied the Promised Land. It was under the firm and wise leadership of Joshua-'The Lord Saves!-that, well, the Lord saved.
This is important to us because there's a New Testament word for 'Joshua', and you know it, of course: Jesus. Why was our Lord given this name instead of some other? Because that's what He would be, God's Savior-
He shall save His people from their sins.
As wonderful as the other Yahweh names are, they're all there to set us up for the Greatest Name of All.
The Lord who visited Israel in Egypt, who visited them in the Wilderness, who visited them in Canaan, has now visited us in Christ. And, unlike His other visits, this one is permanent. For when He became a Man, He became a Man forever. When He shucked off His humiliation, He retained His humanity. This same Jesus, the one who understood people, who sympathized with them, who loved and healed and raised them from the dead, is now in Heaven, doing the same work on a much wider scale.
How thankful we ought to be for Yahweh, especially now that He has become human in Jesus Christ. And how we ought to celebrate Him in private, in the Church, and in the whole wide world. Let the ancient Psalm be our daily song-
Sing unto God, sing praises to His name;
Extol Him who rides upon the Heavens by His name,
By His name Yah!
And rejoice before Him.
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