In June, we are going to employ a small change in our worship. In an effort to both be more faithful to the text of Scripture and to reflect the personal nature of God, we are going to use God’s proper name whenever it appears in the day’s lessons. God’s name, as revealed to Moses in Exodus 3 is Yahweh, or sometimes seen as YHWH. (Hebrew does not have vowels, so the “a” and “e” are later additions.) That word translates roughly to “I am what I am,” and that is usually what is written in Exodus 3. This is the name God gives for Himself when Moses asks for his name as he prepares to go back to Egypt to plead for the Israelite’s freedom.
God’s name is at least a little mysterious. What does “I am what I am” mean? Perhaps God is indicating he is the ground of all creation, the foundation of all that is. From Exodus 3 on (and even in Genesis), Yahweh is the proper name of God. This is not the only name for God; “El” or “Elohim” is a generic Hebrew word that means simply “god” and it is often used. But Yahweh is God’s proper name, if you will. You will know when you come across it in an English translation because Yahweh will be transcribed as LORD that is the word “lord” in all capitals or small capitals. (WordPress does not allow me to create a “small capitals” version of “Lord.”) “El” or “Elohim” is translated as “Lord” with small letters. Perhaps out of an abundance of caution or a willingness to show respect to those who would be offended by using the name Yahweh, the name of God is never written or spoken in most English translations.
There is a growing sense, however, that using Yahweh has benefits, and doing so with respect does not bring us close to the edge of blasphemy. Some newer translations now translate “Lord” as Yahweh directly. The benefit is that using God’s proper name puts us closer to the relationship the Israelites enjoyed with God. That is, their relationship with the revealed God of the Bible was personal and not merely “official” (as in, dealing only with God’s office or title of “Lord”.)
And if you employ God’s name, it opens up the scriptures to a highly personal and even intimate relationship with the revealed God of the Bible. Consider this example from Joshua 24:15: “And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” “Lord” is a perfectly good and respectful word. But replace the two uses of “the Lord”with Yahweh and the effect is more personal and even dramatic. For we do not worship or know a generic god. We know the personal God of the universe, named Yahweh!
As we use “Yahweh” in worship, my hope is that you will grow in your relationship to the personal God we worship. Employing the name He gives Himself will open up His reality in a way that “Lord” alone falls a bit short.