Yahweh, My God

I belong to Yahweh!
I am his, and he is mine.
He lives in me--astonishing, 
this truth I can’t absorb!
I live in him, in whom I have
my being, my true home,
my source of life and strength,
all my giftings and my soul,
the “who” I am, because of him.

“I AM,” he said to Moses
and he says it now to me:
the Alpha and Omega, 
the Truth from A to Z,
the One beginning and the end
but there’s no starting place,
no finish line that ties up time;
HE IS eternally. And
I am his, and he is mine!

The name of God in Hebrew is precious. Yet most of us don’t know it, at least not in its origin and depth.

Even the origin of the word “God” in English is so ancient that it predates Christianity, referring to deities who were invoked in the Germanic religion. When Christianity came to Europe, the neuter noun became masculine to refer to God, the Sovereign Father, as we know him.[1]

But when our Lord Jesus was teaching his disciples how to pray in the Sermon on the Mount, he says to “hallow” or revere the name of our heavenly Father:

So pray this way:12 Our Fatherin heaven, may your name be honored,14 (Matt. 6:9 NET)

Pray like this: Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. (Matt. 6:9 NLT)

The Jews who were listening to Jesus recognized this phrase and knew it was essential:

“Hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come,” [echos] the language of the Jewish prayer, the Kaddish. It begins: “Magnified and hallowed be his great name in the world . . .”[2]

They understood what name was being referred to! God’s name in Hebrew was (and is) YHWH. He made himself known to Moses using that name in Exodus 3:14, usually translated in English as “I AM WHO I AM .  . . I AM has sent you.” Because the Jews wanted to respect that name as holy, they substituted their word for “lord” in its place, not pronouncing YHWH. Eventually they inserted those vowels into the Hebrew script, and in the Middle Ages it became read by scholars coming from other languages as “Jehovah.” You can get a much more detailed history if you read the discussion at the site footnoted here:

Jehovah” is a spelling that developed from combining the consonants of the name with the vowels of a Hebrew word for “Lord” (Adonai).[3]

That is why many of us grew up hearing about Jehovah, and then wondering why newer translations left that out. They were reacting to that misreading, trying to be true to the original. What matters is that his name YHWH affirmed his eternal being, one who was and is and is to come.

In common English, we use “God” as our usual designation for him. Other languages use their term that designates the High Deity, One Above All, to be worshiped. In Nyarafolo the name is Kulocɛliɛ, the Most High Creator. They believe, as the Canaanites and ancient Germanic peoples did, that there were also many lower gods. Nyarafolo traditional religion focuses more on these lower gods, thinking that Kulocɛliɛ is distant, disinterested in humanity. The message that YHWH (pronounced Yewe in Nyarafolo, the verb “to be” with a noun suffix!) loves them and is longing for them to be his children is truly amazing Good News. Every people group needs to fill in their understanding of what their name for God actually connotes through his Word, not through their culture. However they address him, he hears. He understands and can speak every language on earth! And when a person’s name is used, it identifies that person and stands for who they are in their character and actions.

The Bible is clear that God’s name had to be honored, not used in “vain.” I believe that is one of the things least understood in American culture. Everywhere we go, and in movies and the Internet, we will hear “Oh my God!” uttered in surprise, distress or disgust—even in some kids’ videos. There is no  attempt to reach out to him, or even acknowledge his existence, when that is said. This expression is thoughtless; it is using God’s name in “vain.”

So how are we to treat his name as holy? How are we to use his name correctly?

The Greek verb used here, ἁγιάζω, means to set aside or dedicate for sacred purposes when it refers to things; when used of God as it is here in Matthew 6:9, it means to revere or “treat as holy” the very name of God.[4] When we were working on translating the books of Leviticus and Numbers into Nyarafolo I had to contemplate what it meant to treat something or someone as holy, to understand them as in a different category, the realm of what is sacred. God was hoping Israel would truly “get it” as they practiced not touching consecrated objects in the temple, when they themselves had not been consecrated to do it, for instance. One could actually die, as happened to the man who did it by mistake, with good intentions (2 Samuel 6).

In our day we have lost this respect for what is “holy.” When it comes to God’s name, especially, we need to get it back. If we do not respect it, we are actually showing contempt for who he is. And contempt is serious wrongdoing (Mat. 5:22).

The Old Testament Law was very clear about this:

You must not make use of the name of the LORD your God for worthless purposes,15 for the LORD will not exonerate anyone who abuses his name that way. (Deut. 5:11 NET)

One of my grandsons was recently listening to a Minecraft parody, and the man telling the story was constantly saying, “Oh my God! That is sick!” (That boy was told not to listen to that narrator again!) I had been contemplating the Lord’s prayer with you all, and I realized that I was hurt by this constant repetition of the name of the Holy One, someone who means so much to me, as though he does not exist and his name is just a common word, meaningless. It truly is contemptuous. It pushes God away as irrelevant.

When we reverence his name as unique and representing his perfection, it will show up in how we live. The Jews who used this phrase that referred to magnifying and hallowing God’s name knew that eventually the whole world would know how great he is, when his final kingdom would come, but they also knew that living according to his ways, living rightly, would show their respect for who he is, which is what his name represents.[5] And as Chamblin says, “He who prays this way commits himself to personal obedience (“let my conduct honor your name; your will be done, by me, now”), for the advance of God’s rule . . . in his own life and society.”[6]

May it be so! When we belong to him, the Eternal One lives in us. This is a precious bond with deep meaning. Let’s honor him with our words, our prayers, and how we live!


[1] https://www.etymonline.com

[2] James M. Freeman and Harold J. Chadwick, Manners & Customs of the Bible (North Brunswick, NJ: Bridge-Logos Publishers, 1998), 414.

[3] https://www.thenivbible.com/blog/what-does-yahweh-mean-in-the-bible/

[4] Friberg, Analytical Greek Lexicon.

[5] Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), Mt 6:9–10.

[6] J. Knox Chamblin, “Matthew,” in Evangelical Commentary on the Bible, vol. 3, Baker Reference Library (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1995), 730.

Published by Linnea Boese

After spending most of my life in Africa, as the child of missionaries then in missions with my husband, I am now retired and free to use my time to write! I am working on publishing poetry and on writing an autobiography. There have been many adventures, challenges and wonderful blessings along the way -- lots to share!

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