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Showing posts with label The names of God. Show all posts
Showing posts with label The names of God. Show all posts

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

The Names of God - Advocate

Introduction
So far, we’ve covered quite a few names for God in the Bible.  I hope this series has helped you know God better—not just know about Him, but actually know Him.  It is never enough to know about Him.  God wants you to know Him, personally.  It is one thing for you to know about a person; we know about many people.  But when you know a person, it’s like you have dinner with them and sit around the living room talking about their life until late in the night.  You tell them all about your life and they tell you about there’s.  Even more than that, you really get to know a person when they come rescue you when your car breaks down, or when you are sick in the hospital and they take your children to school for you while you’re having surgery.  When you live life with someone—when they are at your wedding and the birth of your child and in the good times and the bad times and everything in between, then you really know them.  And this is the kind of relationship God wants with us all.  He knows us and He wants us to know Him.  And the names for God, which He reveals in Scripture, show us different ways He is there with us and who He is to us.  And I hope this series has helped you see some of the ways God is there.

Our name for God today is Advocate.

John 14:15-17a
15 
“If you love me, obey my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. 17 He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth.


1 John 2:1
1 My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous.  2 He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.

Paraclete
Who would you call to help you if you were in really big trouble?  Imagine something terrible happens.  I mean, suppose you are driving through the Kroger parking lot and a 4-year-old kid dashes out in front of your car before you even have a chance to react.  And you hear that awful sound—kadunk…  You immediately stop and get out of the car and see the horrible sight of a mangled child.  It wasn’t your fault.  You had no chance to stop.  There was nothing you could do, but none of that matters to the crowd gathering around.  You mind is swirling and the mother is screaming.  The crowd is angy.  All they see is broken child, a devastated mother, and you and your car.  Someone yells “He was probably texting and driving!”  You weren’t. Your phone was in your pocket, but it doesn’t matter.  The mob wants someone to blame for this senseless tragedy.  They blame you.  The police arrive.  They take you to jail…  Who would you call?  Who would be on your side and fight for you no matter what?

I hope you never get in a situation like that.  But if you do, you will need friends who love you unconditionally.  You will need a good lawyer who will fight for you.

I say all this because it steers our thinking towards one of God’s most beautiful names—Advocate.  In John 14:16, Jesus said, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you.  The Greek word for Advocate is Paraclete.  It literally means, “Called to one’s side.” 

In the ancient world, a paraclete (advocate) was the person you would call to defend you before a judge. They would plead your case and fight for you with every means possible.  In our day, you would hire the best lawyer you can afford.  We have seen in our time the difference between having a high paid lawyer as opposed to a public defender (that the court appoints for those who can’t afford a lawyer). 

Public defenders are notorious for providing bad defense.  It’s not necessarily that they are bad lawyers.  It’s just they are overworked, underpaid, and understaffed.  You are just another name on a long list of clients they have to defend.  On the other hand, we have seen how a really rich person might hire a brilliant lawyer who’s only job is to defend their one high-paying client, and they do it so well their client might even get away with murder.  Having the right advocate can make all the difference.

And Jesus says, “I will ask my Father (God) and He will give you an Advocate.”  The God of the Universe gives us an Advocate.  The Advocate is the Third Person of the Trinity—God the Holy Spirit.
When we decide to follow Jesus as our Lord, the Holy Spirit comes to live in our hearts.  He is there fighting for you, encouraging you, defending you, advising you, guiding you every step of the way.  Isn't it good to know that even if the whole world is against you, God the Holy Spirit is on your side?

Prevenient Grace
The Holy Spirit was there fighting for you before you even know He was there.  We celebrate the prevenient grace of God whenever we baptize and infant.  Sometimes people think the practice of infant baptism is peculiar.  They wonder why we would baptize a person before they can consciously understand what Jesus has done for them.  One reason we do infant baptism is specifically because represents how the Holy Spirit is working on our behalf before we even know or understand.  Parents present their child to God for baptism and ask the Holy Spirit to pour grace into the child and the parents and the church to help raise the child until they are old enough to accept Christ for themself and complete the baptism at confirmation.  Then they will recognize all that God has done for them through so many people and in so many ways.

All of my children were baptized as infants.  They will never know all the people who prayed for them, helped them, babysat them, and blessed them through the years.  All these people were instruments of the Holy Spirit to help them and give them every possible chance to grow up know CHrist and His love so that they were able to accept Jesus for themselves when they were old enough to understand what it means to be a Christian.

But suppose you were an orphan and didn't have a family or a church showing you the Holy Spirit's grace all through your childhood.  I want you to know that when no one else is there for you, God is the for you personally.  Deuteronomy 10:18 says, "[God] ensures that orphans and widows receive justice. He shows love to the foreigners living among you and gives them food and clothing."  Psalm 10:14 says, "The helpless put their trust in [God]. You defend the orphans."

When you are helpless and you have no one fighting for you, God is fighting for you personally as the Holy Spirit--opening doors, providing for needs, bringing people into your life to help.  God makes this happen, because God has a deep compassionate heart for the least, the last, the forgotten, and the lost. Read the stories of the Scripture and you will see Him there time and time again for the widow, the orphan, the foreigner, the leper, the lame, and the social outcast.

The Holy Spirit is there fighting for us to bring us to know God—even before we are thinking of God.

Justifying Grace
And then one day, we realize all that God has done for us, even though we haven’t been living for Him.  We see how Jesus died on the cross to save us from our own selfishness and when we cry out, “Lord, forgive me!  I want to start following You know. Come, take control of my life!”  

In the moment, the Devil is there prosecuting you before God.  The Devil lays out all the charges against you about all the ways you’ve sinned and hurt people and turned your back on God.  Thankfully, the Holy Spirit steps in on your behalf and defends/justifies you.  This is called the justifying grace of God.  The Holy Spirit says, “All these sins have been paid for by the blood of Christ shed on the cross.”

However, the Devil is relentless.  He doesn't give up.  The Devil says, “Yes! But she’s not going to be true.  She’s a sinful human!  She will say she’s gonna follow you today, but tomorrow or the next day or the day after that, she will sin again!”

So, the Holy Spirit says, “ALL of her sins are paid in full—her sins from the past; her sins today; and every sin she might do in the future.  ALL her sins are swallowed up by Christ’s death on the cross.  They are atoned.  They are forgiven.  They are washed away by the blood fo Christ, forever!”

Then God will look at you and pronounce: “You is innocent.  I see no sin in you.  I see only Christ in you.  You are completely justified, forever!"

Sanctifying Grace
It doesn't stop there.  Now, the new Christian has to rebuild their life as a new creation patterned after Jesus their Lord.  God has proclaimed them innocent, but now they have to live a new way—for the old has passed and the new has begin.  How will a person know how to live as a Christian?  Howe will they actually do it if they know how?  Jesus was there showing his 12 disciples and helping them every day.  Who is walking with us today showing us how to live?

Jesus told His disciples how this would work.  In John 14:26, He said, “When the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.” 

So this is another function of the Holy Spirit, our Advocate.  The Holy Spirit shows us how to live for God and the Holy Spirit empowers us to live holy lives.  If we listen with sensitive spiritual ears, the Holy Spirit is there to guide us and show us what to do, how to live, which way to go.  Our Advocate not only helps us understand what the Bible says, He also empowers us to live it out in every day life, in every situation.  The Advocate is Wisdom that knows the right thing to do, in the right way, at the right time, for the right reasons.  If you will respond to the Holy Spirit's guidance, you will live the way God wants you to and you will be more like Christ and you will bring glory to God thorugh the power of the Holy Spirit.

It’s Time to Follow Jesus
And so today, I offer you a chance to make a choice to become a follower of Christ—a true Christian.  I want you to realize the God was there with you—in the Holy Spirit—the whole time. Even if you couldn’t see Him.  Even if there was no one to tell you about Him or show Him to you, He was there opening doors, guiding your steps, using your decisions and the people in your life and every  circumstance (both good and bad) to lead you to know Him and His love.  Now, it is time to trust Him, to proclaim Jesus the Lord of your life.  It is time to choose to follow Christ.

If you would like to become a Christian today, I invite you to pray this prayer:

"Lord, come in and take control of my life.  I surrender to You.  I recognize that You are the true Lord of all and You deserve my full allegiance.  I want to give my allegiance to you from this day forward.  Lord, please forgive me for my sins.  Wash me clean and give me a fresh start so that I can live for You from this day forward, with the help of Your Holy Spirit.  I know that Jesus is Your precious Son who died on the cross for my sins.  I trust Him to forgive me.  Thank you for giving me eternal Christ, for His names sake.  Now, let me live all my days as Your precious child. Amen."

Monday, August 9, 2021

The Names of God - Yahweh-Shammah

Introduction
Proverbs 18:10 says, “The name of the Lord is a strong fortress; the godly run to him and are safe.  God’s names reveal His character and help us to know Him.  Today, I want to consider the name Yahweh-Shammah, which means the Lord is there. We will see it is a name for God and also for a great city that Christians hope to inhabit one day.

Ezekiel was a prophet of Israel that lived in captivity in the time of the Babylonian Empire. Babylonia conquered Jerusalem and set up a puppet government that promised to be loyal to Babylonia. Then, Babylonia took several important people captive as hostages back to Babylonia. Ezekiel was among the captives. A few years later, Jerusalem rebelled and Babylonia returned to reconquer and destroy the city. When Ezekiel and the Israelite captives in Babylon heard the news of Jerusalem's destruction, they were devastated. But God gave them a vision through Ezekiel. God said Jerusalem and the temple had been destroyed because of Israel's sin of idolatry. However, God was going to one day build a new eternal city and temple and Israel's heritage and way of life will be built into the very walls of the city.

Ezekiel 48:30-35
30 
“These will be the exits to the city: On the north wall, which is 1 1⁄2 miles long, 31 there will be three gates, each one named after a tribe of Israel. The first will be named for Reuben, the second for Judah, and the third for Levi. 32 On the east wall, also 1 1⁄2 miles long, the gates will be named for Joseph, Benjamin, and Dan. 33 The south wall, also 1 1⁄2 miles long, will have gates named for Simeon, Issachar, and Zebulun. 34 And on the west wall, also 1 1⁄2 miles long, the gates will be named for Gad, Asher, and Naphtali.

35 “The distance around the entire city will be 6 miles. And from that day the name of the city will be ‘The Lord Is There.’”

Slide – Yahweh-Shammah
The New Living Translation translates the Hebrew Name for God and the eternal city as "The Lord Is There".  The original Hebrew word was Yahweh-Shammah.  Yahweh means "I Am" or "I Am Who I Am".  Usually, this is translated into English as LORD with all capital letter to indicate the original word was Yahweh.  Lord is decent translation; it captures something of the original meaning.  A lord is sovereign.  You can't tell a lord what to do; the lord tells you what to do.  God (Yahweh) is Lord of all.  He is sovereign over everything.  He is who He is.  We can't control or manipulate Him.

Shammah means There.  Ezekiel 48:35 is the only time Shammah is used in the entire Bible.  

Yahweh-Shammah is the last word of the last sentence of the last chapter of Ezekiel.  The Prophet ends his vision of God’s restoration of the broken dreams of God’s people with this hope:  “Something new is coming.  I know our homes have been destroyed.  Our culture is demolished.  Our city and temple are gone and we are prisoners in a foreign land.  But One Day the Lord will build a new city and it’s eternal name will be “The Lord is There.”

Do you know the Lord is there?
Do you know the Lord is there?  Some people struggle to know the Lord is there.  Thy think of God as an old man in the sky, or a distant deity, or some ethereal energy or spiritual force.  However, the Bible repeatedly tells stories that reveal God is real, tangible, and personable. 

God spoke to the prophets.  God was a friend to Abraham. Genesis says God walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden during the cool of the day.

If that weren’t enough, God took the form of a man and came down to earth.  He was born as a baby named Jesus.  We read how Jesus was dedicated at the Temple.  Luke tells us about a time when Jesus got separated from his parents during a trip when he was 12.  The Gospels tell so many amazing stories about Jesus’ miracles and teachings, but it is also clear that, in Jesus, God is a man with flesh and blood who gets thirsty and hungry and who, in the end, even bleeds and dies.

So God is real and He is there.  God is not something vague or far off or impersonal. He is there.

God is there when a baby is born and a new life comes into the world.
God it there with the mother as she struggles through the pain of childbirth.
God is there with the father who can't do anything but watch and pray as the woman he loves gives birth.
God is there when your kids go back to school in uncertain times and with the teachers trying to educate them and keep them safe.
God is there when a young couple gets married or when a person struggles to remain single.
God is there when you start a new job—with the uncertainties and the hopes for the future.
God is there when you lose a child and you feel like your heart is utterly broken and you don't knwo how you can go on.
God is there when someone betrays you or when you are the betrayer.
God is there loving you even when you are being disciplined.  He was with the Israelites consoling and encouraging them with a new vision--even as they learned their homeland had been destroyed.
God is there when we celebrate, when we laugh, when we cry, when we live, and when we die.

Ezekiel and his people were devastated when the temple was destroyed.  For them in their time, the temple was where God lived.  The temple gave the people access to God’s presence.  The temple’s destruction meant they no longer had a place to be in God’s presence.  However, Ezekiel shared a vision for a new city called, Yahweh-Shammah, “The Lord Is There”.

Jesus came to start building that city in our hearts.  Do you remember how Jesus once told the religious leaders, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” (John 2:19).  The people thought he was crazy.  It had taken them 46 years to build the Temple.  However, Jesus wasn’t talking about a physical temple.  Jesus was talking about His body, which the Bible says was crucified and buried in a tomb and rose back to life on the third day.

This is part of a New Covenant God made with people.  If you repent of your sins and turn to God as your Lord, He forgives your sins and He is there for you.  In fact, His Holy Spirit lives in your heart!

You don’t have to travel to Jerusalem and seek God’s presence in some ancient temple.  God is right here, right now.  1 Peter 2:4-5a says, “You are coming to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple. He was rejected by people, but he was chosen by God for great honor.  And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple.

When Christians gather together, we form a spiritual temple where God is present.  Isn’t that amazing!  Remember how the presence of God filled the two holy places in the Old Testament.  First, there was the Tabernacle in Exodus.  As the Israelites were living in tents traveling from Egypt through the wilderness to the Promised Land, God also lived in a tent called the Tabernacle.  It was the Israelites first Holy Place to worship in the presence of God.  The presence of God was revealed through a pillar of smoke by day and a pillar of fire by night.  Later, when the Israelites were settled in the Promised Land, King Solomon built the first temple and dedicated it to the Lord as the holy place where people worshiped in the presence of the Lord.  And the Lord revealed His glorious presence to the people through a great cloud of smoke that filled the temple.  Then we fast forward to the New Testament, to the book of Acts in the second chapter.  Jesus' disciples are gathered together in an upper room and the sound of a mighty rushing wind filled the place as the Holy Spirit filled the believers and it was as if tongues of fire were dancing above each disciple's head.  It was just like in the Old Testament stories, except this time the presence of God did not inhabit a building; God filled people who believed in Jesus!  Christians are no the temple of God!

What’s more, Ephesians tell us the church is the body of Christ.  When we put our faith in Jesus, we are His body and His temple and the Lord is there.

A Future Hope
We still long for a day when all that is wrong with the world will be made right.  That Day is coming.  It is closer today than it was yesterday.  Jesus promised He would return One Day to separate the sheep from the goats and the wheat from the weeds--His faithful from the unfaithful.  That Day is coming and no one knows the day or the hour, so we have to always be ready.

One Day, God will make a New Heaven and a New Earth where everything is the way it was meant to be.  In that day, we will live together in the City of God on Earth.  Picking up on the vision God revealed to Ezekiel, the Revelation of John describes the New City named “God is There.”

Revelation 21:1-4
1
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.

I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”

Holy Communion
Whenever we celebrate the sacrament of Holy Communion, it reminds us o
f what Jesus did to reconcile us to God.  It also reminds us of His presence with us now.  Finally, it reminds us of our role to be the Body of Christ in this broken world until He returns.




Monday, July 12, 2021

The Names of God - Yahweh-Yireh

Introduction
My message today is about one of God’s names:  Yahweh-Yireh, also known more commonly as Jehovah-Jireh.  Ancient Hebrew didn't have vowels, only consonants, which leaves a lot of room for interpretation on how to pronounce this ancient word.  Yahweh is spelled YHWH.  The letter Y can be pronounced as John or Yan.  Also, the letter W can be pronounced as What or Vat.  Therefore, Yahweh could be Jahvey.  Added to this confusion is that in the middle ages, Jews wanting to avoid saying or writing God's name would add the vowels for the Hebrew word Adonai in with the consonants of YHWH to render YaHoWaiH or JaHoVaiH, which is where we may get the word, Jehovah.  Most scholars believe the ancient pronunciation was closer to Yahweh.

Genesis 22:1-14
1
Some time later, God tested Abraham’s faith. “Abraham!” God called.

“Yes,” he replied. “Here I am.”

“Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.”

The next morning Abraham got up early. He saddled his donkey and took two of his servants with him, along with his son, Isaac. Then he chopped wood for a fire for a burnt offering and set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day of their journey, Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. “Stay here with the donkey,” Abraham told the servants. “The boy and I will travel a little farther. We will worship there, and then we will come right back.”

So Abraham placed the wood for the burnt offering on Isaac’s shoulders, while he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them walked on together, Isaac turned to Abraham and said, “Father?”

“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.

“We have the fire and the wood,” the boy said, “but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?”

“God will provide a sheep for the burnt offering, my son,” Abraham answered. And they both walked on together.

When they arrived at the place where God had told him to go, Abraham built an altar and arranged the wood on it. Then he tied his son, Isaac, and laid him on the altar on top of the wood. 10 And Abraham picked up the knife to kill his son as a sacrifice. 11 At that moment the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”

“Yes,” Abraham replied. “Here I am!”

12 “Don’t lay a hand on the boy!” the angel said. “Do not hurt him in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld from me even your son, your only son.”

13 Then Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by its horns in a thicket. So he took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering in place of his son. 14 Abraham named the place Yahweh-Yireh (which means “the Lord will provide”). To this day, people still use that name as a proverb: “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”

Yahweh-Yireh
This is a strange and disturbing passage with which we should never become completely comfortable.  Anytime religious texts that promotes a loving and holy God commanding a person to sacrifice another human being, it should give us pause.  However, the passage reveals God’s name:  Yahweh-Yireh (or Jehovah-Jireh).

Yahweh means "I Am" or "I Am Who I Am".  In other words, God is who He is and we don't get to determine what He is like.  He created us in His image.  We don't get to create Him in ours.  God is the Great I Am.

Yireh means “see to it".  Vanilla Ice once rapped: "If there's a problem, yo, I'll save it."  God sees the problem and then sees to it and provides the solution.

People like there needs met.  In a world of uncertainty, it’s good to know we will have food to eat, shelter for warmth, companionship, etc.  Unfortunately, we always want more. 

I had an experience that illustrates this.  When my son was 2 years old, we were riding alone in the car and I had a really big bag of potato chips.  I decided we were going to eat as many of those chips as we wanted.  So I started eating and gave a chip to my son.  He loved it and wanted more.  SO I stated handing him chips one by one.  He would eat one and ask for another. I decided I would give him as many as he wanted, but I wasn't going to give him the bag and let him stick his grimy two-year-old hands in the bag.  After repeatedly giving Gavin chip after chip, he started asking for the bag.  I told him, he could have as many as he wanted, but only one chip at a time.  He couldn't have the bag.  He didn't like that.  He started to get upset and throw a fit.  He wanted the whole bag to himself.  He didn't want to have to depend upon me to give him each chip.

This is the human condition.  We don't want to depend on God or anyone else.  We want what we want and we want it independently.  We want things our way and leads to sin.  We see this from almost the very beginning of humanity.  In Genesis, we read how Adam and Eve in the Garden f Eden.  It was the very definition of paradise.  They had every thing they could ever want and it was perfect.  God said they could eat anything in the Garden except for the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  This alone would be a test to prove their loving obedience to God.  But then a Satan slithers up to them as a snake and convinces them "God is withholding something good from you."  And they wanted it and they believed a snake instead of God.

I see this in the church sometimes.  People have everything they need—people in the church that care about them, people that sacrifice for them and love them unconditionally while overlooking their faults, and so many good things.  And maybe for a time, they will tell you “This church has been such a blessing…”   They will be fine for a time, but unfortunately it often happens that these same families start to want something more they feel the church isn’t providing—better music, better kids programs, whatever—and they go looking somewhere else or they just get bored with the church and stop coming.  For them, God and His Church are just something to use to get what they want or need. They consume the church as a product or a fruit; and when they are finished with it or what more, they will move on and consume something or someone else.  This is the human heart and it is incredibly wicked.  Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?”

And so humanity finds itself broken and corrupt, with no way to be healed.  But God is Jehovah-Jireh, the God who sees the problem and the God who provides the solution.

Abraham and Isaac
It is passages like this Abraham/Isaac story that convince me the Bible was inspired by God.  Yes, God used people to write and compile the stories, but their work was guided by God.  If it had only been a human effort, the editors would have gotten rid of passages like Genesis 22 a long time ago.  The editing committee would have sat together and said, "Come on guys.  This passage makes God look really bad.  We need to get rid of it."  But God is not trying to make us like Him.  He is Yahweh.  He is who He is.  

This story has an important purpose.  One purpose is to disabuse us of our entitlement mentality.  Lest we ever begin to think of God as our personal Sugar Daddy in the Sky who only exists to give us stuff and make us happy, the story of Abraham and Isaac serves to shake us from our selfishness.  In the image of Isaac on the altar, we see the agonizing cost of our broken relationship with God.  We see the agony of a father (Abraham) poised to sacrifice his only son (Isaac) and we are appalled.

Many religions throughout the millennia have advocated human sacrifice (and even child sacrifice) as a method to appease or manipulate the gods.  Yahweh actually forbids and abhors human sacrifice in the Bible (Deut. 18:10).  Yahweh cannot be controlled—He is who He is and He is sovereign.

The story of Abraham and Isaac foreshadows what God has done for us. While other so-called “gods” (which are really idols and false gods or demons parading as god) entice people to sacrifice their children in order to get something, the One True God—Jehovah-Jireh/Yahweh-Yireh, the God who provides—gave up His own Son for us.  He did this, not because we deserved it, but because we desperately needed it.

Mt Moriah is Mt. Calvary
Many scholars believe (and I agree) that Mount Moriah, where Abraham laid his son on the altar, is the same location where thousands of years later Jesus, the Son of God, was crucified on the cross.  God wanted Abraham and us to know the agony He would go through to provide for our deepest need and the cost of our atonement.

Notice what Genesis 22:14 says, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”  These words were spoken 2,000 years before Christ was even born and died on top of Mount Moriah (what the Christians call Mount Calvary).  No one could have known that one day a Messiah would be born that John 3:16 tells us is God’s “only Son”.  No one could have known he would be called "the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world".  No one could have known that God’s Son would be bound and nailed to a cross for our sin.  No one could know this accept Yahweh-Yireh, who is the God who sees and provides what we really need.

God, Yahweh-Yireh, sees deeply into every situation and even far into the future and works out His perfect plans for us.  We must have faith like Abraham, especially when we don’t understand.  We need to trust God is providing for our truest needs.  And this is extremely important, because we feel like we have needs but we don’t always know what we really need.  We cry out to God in our perceived needs.  We pray for things we want and think we need.  We may even pray for things that seem reasonable and even noble—things like safety for our family, healing and health, etc.  And it’s ok to pray for those things.  But God really see our deepest needs and He provides.  And we have to trust Him because we can’t see the big picture and God’s providence may take forms we don’t understand.  We can’t even see what’s going to happen this afternoon and God is thinking thousands of years down the road.  He sees eternity and He wants you there with Him.  So we have to have faith—like Abraham—and listen for God’s voice and keep our eyes open.  God may provide a solution that’s just right there like a ram with its horns caught in a thicket.

Closing
What do you need today?  What do you really need?
You may not know.  You may have some idea.  You may think you know.
But maybe God has something to show you.  It could be a solution you haven’t seen before.
It could be that you’ve been looking at the problem all wrong.
God wants to give you new insight.
Ultimately, God has already seen to everything you really need for eternity.
On the mountain of the Lord it was provided in Jesus Christ on the cross.
Maybe you just need to accept it.
Well, I invite you to spend a moment talking to Yahweh-Yireh, the God Who Provides now.

Monday, June 28, 2021

The Names of God - Yahweh

Introduction
My son, Gavin, will turn 23 in just a couple weeks.  He was the very first of my Mom’s grandchildren.  After we had a child, the dam broke for my siblings and the nieces and nephews just started coming one after another.  I’m not very good with names, so it started getting tough to keep up with everyone’s name.  My sister thought she was gonna have twins at one point.  I said, “That’s awesome!” (but I was thinking “How in the world am I gonna tell them apart and remember their names?”)  My sister said, “Yeah twins!  Isn’t that amazing?  And one will be a boy and one is a girl. But I’m not sure what to name them?”

Well, I’m a fixer and an innovator and I’m practical.  So I said, “I think you should call the girl Denise.”  “That’s a pretty name,” said my sister, “but what about the boy?  What should I name him?”  I said, “Denephew.” …Cause then it would be Deniece and Denephew…

That's not really a true story, but I thought it was a funny joke about names.  This summer, we are reviewing the names of God in Scripture.  God has many names that represent His multifaceted character.  And He has told us His names because God wants us to know Him and what He is like.  So through this series, I challenge you to expand your thinking about God.  God is infinite and it is not enough to know Him only in one way.  You should strive to know God better and understand His many qualities. So far, we have learned:

  • God is Elohim – A Triune God who is Three in One: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
  • He is El Shaddai – the Almighty, All-Sufficient God who is everything you need
  • He is Abba Father – and you can relate to God like an infant to a loving daddy
  • Today, we learn God’s eternal name – Yahweh

Exodus 3:1-6
1
One day Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian. He led the flock far into the wilderness and came to Sinai, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing fire from the middle of a bush. Moses stared in amazement. Though the bush was engulfed in flames, it didn’t burn up. “This is amazing,” Moses said to himself. “Why isn’t that bush burning up? I must go see it.”

When the Lord saw Moses coming to take a closer look, God called to him from the middle of the bush, “Moses! Moses!”

“Here I am!” Moses replied.

“Do not come any closer,” the Lord warned. “Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground. I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” When Moses heard this, he covered his face because he was afraid to look at God.

Have you hear this story?  God asked Moses to go tell the Pharaoh of Egypt to let God's people go.  God was going to use Moses to lead the Hebrew's out of slavery in Egypt into the Promised Land.

Exodus 3:13-15
13 
But Moses protested, “If I go to the people of Israel and tell them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ they will ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what should I tell them?”

14 God replied to Moses, “I am who i am. Say this to the people of Israel: I am has sent me to you.” 15 God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: Yahweh,[e] the God of your ancestors—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.

This is my eternal name,
    my name to remember for all generations.

 

Yahweh - I AM WHO I AM
People in the ancient Middle East were very superstitious.  They believed you could manipulate a god if you knew its name.  In Egypt, where Moses grew up, they had many, many gods.  The Egyptians used their gods’ names and magical spells to manipulate nature.  But amidst a the thousands and thousands of Egyptian gods, which one was speaking to Moses from the burning bush?

 

There is only one real God.  All others are fakes or idols or demons.  God reveals His proper name to Moses, which shows He is eternal and He cannot be manipulated.  God reveals His name is Yahweh, and it’s a word that is hard to translate.  It means something like “I AM WHO I AM”.  You get the sense of the unchanging, eternal quality of God’s character.  He is who He is.  He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  Notice that it is also present tense.  It is not, I WAS or I WILL BE.  It is I AM.  God is not some forgotten relic of the past or something we look forward to in the future.  God is RIGHT NOW.  And He is always RIGHT NOW. 

 

One thing that is hard for mortal to comprehend is that God created time.  If God created time then that means at some point time didn't exist.  We can’t imagine an existence without time.  The human mind tries to mark everything by what happened yesterday and what will happen tomorrow.  Sometimes, we are so consumed by our infatuation with time, we forget to live right now in the moment.  Many people spend years in counseling because of emotional scars from their childhood.  Their past keeps them from living a full life in the present.  Others are so filled with anxiety about what might happen in the feature they are unable to live fully in the present, right now.


God is not like that.  God is the great I AM.  He is always, RIGHT NOW.

 

Yahweh and Jehovah

Ancient Hebrew writing is weird.  First of all, they write backwards, from right to left.  Some scholars think this is because ancient Hebrew was written on clay tablets or chiseled into stone and it was easier to chisel from right to left.  They would hold the chisel in their left hand and a hammer in their right (because most people are right handed).  This made it easier to chisel sentences from right to left.  Many ancient languages that were primarily engraved on stone went from right to left. It wasn't until people started using paper and ink that it became more common to go from left to right (because going right to left would smear the ink on the paper).


Another weird thing is ancient Hebrew didn't have vowels, only consonants (vowels weren't invented until much later).  So a name like Bill, would be spelled BLL.  The vowel sounds were just assumed. So God's name Yahweh was spelled YHWH.  Nobody in the ancient world complained or thought it was dumb not to have vowels; they were just thrilled to be able to write down sounds for the first time.


Something else that complicates language is how the sounds of letter can change over time and also in different places.  Everyone in America knows how to pronounce the name JOHN (say it to yourself).  However, if you go to Germany, the same name spelled JOHN will be pronounced Yan, because J in Germany has a Y sound.  If you go to Mexico, it's pronounced Wan, because they give J a W sound.


Another letter sound that shifts arounds is W.  In America, you would say, "What do you want?"  But in Russia, it might be pronounced "Vat do you vant?"  This changing sound of letters has affected the way the name of God has been passed down through the ages and even produced an alternate name--Jehovah.


Starting around 300 BC (the time in between the completion of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament), Jew’s became very superstitious about using God’s name.[i]  The third of the Ten Commandments says, “Do not misuse the name of the Lord.” Or “Do not take the Lord’s name in vain.”  (Exodus 20:7).  A proper interpretation of this is that God's people who represent Him shouldn't misrepresent His character by their bad behavior.  Well, many Jews began to misinterpret the third commandment to believe they shouldn’t even say or write Yahweh at all (even though God said Yahweh was to be His name for all generations).  So, the Jews from 300 BC on began to substitute the Hebrew word for Lord (Adonai) instead of saying or writing Yahweh.  Others would intersperse the vowels from Adonai into the consonants for YHWH (because they had invented vowels by that point) rendering the word YaHoWaiH or JaHoVaH.  This is where we get the word Jehovah, which is common way to say God's name today.  The superstition about saying or writing God's name has persisted throughout the centuries right up until our time.  In most translations, you will find Yahweh translated as LORD, with the word in all capital letters,  Whenever you LORD written in all-caps in the Bible, it indicates the word is actually Yahweh.

 

Jesus is Yahweh
Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”  However, many people read the Bible and remark that the Old Testament seems much harsher than the New Testament.  Perhaps you have felt that way.  Sometimes people will say, “I like Jesus, but I don’t like the God of the Old Testament.  Jesus is so loving, but God is so vengeful in the Old Testament.” 

 

I can understand how some people could get the impression that Jesus is somehow different from Yahweh in the Old Testament.  However, that’s an oversimplification of the Bible that doesn’t really hold true.  If you study and understand the Bible, you will find mercy in grace in the Old Testament too. For instance, God saved the Israelites from slavery in Egypt before they were good people.  That's mercy and grace.  You also find judgment and vengeance in the New Testament.  Have you read Revelation?  It's full of God's vengeance and plagues and judgment.  We see "Old Testament" style vengeance and judgement in the New Testament book of Acts too.  Remember the time the Holy Spirit struck Annanias and Saphira dead on the spot for lying to Peter in the New Testament Book of Acts?  (Acts 5:1-11)   And there are many other places throughout the New Testament where we see the God of the New Testament acting just like He does in the Old Testament.  It's just that the New Testament primarily focuses on Yahweh invitation to humanity to be reconciled with God.  Also, understand than the New Testament is less than a quarter of the length of the Old Testament.  So to call the Old Testament harsh and the New Testament sweet is a na├»ve oversimplification.  

 

Jesus in the New Testament and Yahweh in the Old Testament are the same God.  In fact, Jesus even specifically called himself “I AM” (the translation of God’s name, Yahweh).  While arguing with the Jews about what it means to be a child of God and to follow God, Jesus said he was God.  In John 8:58, Jesus referred to himself with the ancient eternal name of God when he said, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I am!”  Remember how I told you the Jews were extremely superstitious about God’s name?  Saying God’s name was enough to get a person stoned to death and the Jews in John 8 tried to stone Jesus to death.  However, because Jesus is Yahweh, the great I AM, He was able to disappear and escape unharmed.

 

So many people only see Jesus as their friend or their buddy.  Jesus is a friend for sinners, bu a true friend is someone who tells you the truth even if you don’t want to hear it.  Furthermore, Jesus is more than just your friend.  Jesus is the eternal, all knowing, all present, all powerful God of the universe.  We would be fools to forget it and only think of Jesus as our buddy.

 

The God of the Old Testament and Jesus of the New Testament are one in the same. There is no difference whatsoever in the character and actions of the Old Testament and New Testament God.  He is who He is.  Just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean you can disregard it.  The Old Testament focuses more on the power, judgment, and sovereignty of God.  The New Testament focuses more on God’s reconciling mercy, love, and grace.  It’s not one or the other.  It’s both.  That is why Jesus preached throughout the Gospels, “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!” (Mark 1:15) 

 

The Bad News you don’t want to hear because it makes you feel uncomfortable is that you have sinned, and the consequences of your sin is death and eternal punishment.  The Good News is Jesus/God loves you so much He paid for your sin by dying on the cross.  He took your place.  Therefore, you can repent and be saved.  However, you must repent and let God be the absolute Lord of our life or you are in eternal danger.

 

Conclusion
I want to do something strange as we close.  Right now, you are on Holy Ground in the presence of a strange and Holy God.  When Yahweh spoke to Moses from the burning bush, He said, “Take off your sandals for you are standing on holy ground…” 

 

So now, in the presence of Holy Yahweh in this Holy place, I invite you to take off your shoes…

 

Now, Bow your head and close your eyes.  Imagine that Yahweh is with you right now (because He is).  Feel the heat from the burning bush warm on your skin.  God is calling your name...  He says, “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—the God of your ancestors.  I am the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament and the God of today.  I am Yahweh—the Great I AM.  I Am Who I Am.  I do not change.  You cannot control me.  You cannot make Me who You want me to be, but I can make you into the person you were designed to be.”

 

Now talk to Yahweh… or just listen to what He would say to you for a few moments…

 


Amen.



[i] https://www.britannica.com/topic/Yahweh