Tuesday, 14 January 2014

The LORD thy God

The phrase is found in 264 verses and, according to my Bible Software, 196 of those verses are in the book of Deuteronomy. The exodus people had become God's people and the whole of Deuteronomy is based on the fact that this miracle has already taken place. Let me give you some more statistics...

Whenever we find the word LORD or GOD in upper case in our Bibles it is an indication that the original Hebrew word is a proper name. It is the name enshrined in many of our hymns and often in our personal testimony as Jehovah. (It was almost certainly pronounced more like Yahweh but the name Yahweh has very little personal history for most Christians, so I'll stick to Jehovah.) In the old KJV you will find the name Jehovah, and its cognates, used in just five verses. In more modern versions it has vanished altogether; e.g. the ESV. the NJKV, the NASB, the NIV, the NLT. God's proper name has vanished from our modern versions. The old ASV on the other hand uses it constantly, 6777 times! (For study I heartily recommend the ASV for the Old Testament!)

The Sinai Covenant people grew nervous of the name Jehovah. They were aware of the warning for anyone using the name wrongly; Thou shalt not take the name of Jehovah thy God in vain; for Jehovah will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain. Ex 20:7 ASV. To avoid the danger they refused to use it altogether and a tradition grew of saying 'Lord' whenever the proper name Jehovah appeared in the scripture reading. Alternatively they would use the word 'Shem' which means 'name'. Perhaps our translators share their nervousness? The downside is that the proper name of God is seldom used and we are much the poorer for that.

Have you ever had someone introduce themselves to you and say "my friends call me Ron" or something similar. It is an endearing thing to do. I have travelled in many countries where Christians are much more formal and would far prefer to call me Pastor or Brother. I always encourage them to call me Ron. I want them to get to know me as a person not as a role. Let me illustrate. I have a dear friend who was my pastor for many years. I always referred to him as Rector. That designation developed its own unique atmosphere and became more like a proper name. I can never say the word 'Rector' without a rich flow of memories. Some time ago, he is now in his 90s, he suggested I might call him 'Philip'. I can't do it. My emotions don't respond to 'Philip'. My emotional memory doesn't know who Philip is!

God introduced himself to the exodus people as 'Jehovah'. The name was designed to acquire its own rich emotional memories. And God spake unto Moses, and said unto him, I am Jehovah: and I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, as God Almighty; but by my name Jehovah I was not known to them. Ex 6:2–3 ASV.

Think about it for a while. We'll pause and next time we will look at some of the emotional memories that the name Jehovah was intended to carry.

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