Saturday, March 7, 2015

Teach us to to pray, part 12: YHWH

And He said to them, "When you pray, say: 'Father, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. 'Give us each day our daily bread. 'And forgive us our sins, For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.'" (Luke 11:2-4 NASB)


Yahweh is the most frequently used name of God, and is used 6,519 times in the Old Testament. It literally means "the existing One". Considered too holy to speak aloud, it is commonly written YHWH, omitting the vowels. YHWH comes from four Hebrew letters, Yud, Hay, Vab, Hay, and is called the Tetragrammaton. It is also pronounced as Jehovah. Yahweh is first used in Genesis 2:4, in reference to the account of the creation of the heavens and earth "in the day that YHWH made the heavens and the earth." Prior to that, the word used for God was Elohim.

Are you ready for the most incredible piece of information I have found in a long time? YHWH is God's proper name (according to BLB and to Thayer's). I'm absolutely astounded by this. {In case you've forgotten, a "proper name" is your given name, like mine is Leanna, or the Son of God's is Jesus.} In that same way, God's given name is YHWH (Yahweh). It is no wonder that YHWH is considered too holy to speak aloud. It is the proper, given name of the Most High God, one that might be used only by His closest friends and by His equals. 

This is a difficult thing to say well, but it is important enough that I feel I must try. God is definitely the friend that sticks closer than a brother, and I consider Him my dearest friend, but I am certainly not His equal. If I am honest, it's not likely I am His closest friend, either, and I should be very careful and considerate about My use of His proper name. 

Both Matthew and Luke record a model prayer given by Jesus to His disciples. In each instance, Jesus began by saying "Hallowed is your name." Hallowing a name is to greatly revere or respect it, to treat it as holy and sacred, so treating the proper name of God with reverence and respect is absolutely critical. Why? The third Commandment tells us the importance of hallowing God's name.

You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.  Exodus 20:7

That will give you pause, won't it? 

We can easily understand that curses using the name of God are taking His name in vain, but Matthew Henry described five categories of behaviors that are taking God's name in vain. Three of those involve swearing, as we would expect, but the other two are areas we should consider. The first action that constitutes taking the name of God in vain is hypocrisy. When we make a profession of God's name but do not live up to that profession, we have taken His name in vain. The second action is equally as sobering. When we make a promise to God but do not carry out the actions we promised, when we break our covenant with God, we have taken His name in vain. 

It behooves us then to be careful to honor God's name, not only with our speech, but with our lives, with our actions. May we live in a way that honors God so that all who see us will recognize the Lord our God in us and be drawn to Him. Hallowed be the name of YHWH, in our words and our actions, too.