And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the LORD Will be delivered… Joel 2:32
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
In a recent trip to the Philippines I was continually asked regarding the name of the LORD. Quoting the above scriptures, there are some people going around teaching that if we do not pronounce the Lord’s name correctly, we will forfeit our salvation. This is a very divisive teaching. It is true, that Jesus’ real name would have been ‘Yeshua’, and that the name of God, revealed to Moses, was YHWH. Nevertheless, God gave us the New Testament in the Greek language, not Hebrew. Both LORD (YHWH) and lord (adonai) are translated into the same Greek word – kurios.Â To illustrate, consider these verses from 1st Peter chapter 3.
1 Pet 3:12 âFor the eyes of the Lord (kyrios) are on the righteous…â
This quotes from Psalm 34:15 âThe eyes of the LORD (YHWH) are toward the righteous…â
1 Pet 3:6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord (kyrios).
Gen 18:12 Sarah laughed to herself saying, âafter I have become old, shall I have pleasure, my lord (adonah) being old also?â
Do you see that? The New Testament translates the Hebrew words YHWH (LORD), and adonai (Lord, lord), both as kyrios. If it had been so important for ALL Christians in EVERY NATION to retain the correct Hebrew pronunciation, then why does the New Testament say ‘kyrios’ rather than YHWH? The apostles could easily have written YHWH into Greek! But they didn’t. It was God who divided the languages, and each nation has their own peculiar accent. I can laugh at the Japanese not being able to distinguish between R and L. But then again, I still can’t get my tongue around the Japanese sound which is half way between R and L! Obviously such things are not going to be a condition for salvation. But what is the Name of the Lord, really?
A Good Name: A Good Character
In the bible, a person’s name is connected with their character and reputation. Consider the following two proverbs.
The name of the LORD is a strong tower. The righteous run into it and are safe.
The rich man’s wealth is his strong city. And like a high wall in his own imagination.
God’s name is trustworthy; as safe as a castle to those who trust in it. Here, the safety of God’s name rests in His good character, not just the title He is called by. The rich man thinks his wealth makes him safe. So which is greater; wealth or a good name?
A good name………………………. is to be desired more than…………. great wealth,
Favor …………………………………is better than â¦…………………………silver and gold. Proverbs 22:1
(or ‘good grace’)
I have stretched it out to show how the clauses in each sentence correspond to each other. As wealth corresponds to silver and gold, a good name corresponds with favor. The particular Hebrew words translated as ‘favor’ here, are ‘tob‘ and ‘chen‘. These are often rendered; ‘goodness’ and ‘grace’.
God’s good name is dependent upon His good and trustworthy character. So, we can call upon God to save us, trusting in His goodness and grace. This is contrasted with the danger of trusting in money, which offers no eternal safety. Exactly the same thing is expressed when the name of the LORD is proclaimed to Moses on Mt Sinai.
Then Moses said, “I pray You, show me Your glory!”
And He said, “I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the LORD before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.”
But He said, “You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!”
Moses prayed to see God’s glory but God refused to show Moses His face. Instead He said he would reveal Himself through the word; by âproclaim(ing) the name of the LORD.â What was it that He proclaimed?
He said He would make all His goodness pass before Moses, proclaiming His grace and compassion. These are the same two characteristics of the good name (‘tob‘ and ‘chen‘) which we read in Proverbs 22:1.
In Exodus 34:5-7, God actually passes by Moses and proclaims His name to him.
The LORD descended in the cloud and stood there with him as he called upon the name of the LORD. Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.”
Clearly what is proclaimed here is God’s character. Just before this is the giving of the 10 commandments after Moses had smashed them. In the context of the law, on Mt Sinai, in the Old Testament, YHWH is proclaimed as a God of compassion, grace, patience, lovingkindness etc. Those who think the God of the Old Testament is a God of wrath, as opposed to the ‘Loving’ God of the New Testament, are wrong. This is the Marcion heresy of the second century. He is the same God. His character never changes. He is graceful; supplying our needs bountifully. He is compassionate; regarding the poor and needy. He is full of Lovingkindess; forgiving those who cry out to Him for mercy. That is why whosoever calls upon the name of YHWH will be saved. He says it is in His nature to do right. So we trust that He will. He says He will forgive the humble, so we trust that He will forgive us. Yet, He is not to be tempted, adding that He will not leave the guilty unpunished. God is always a God of justice, righteousness and grace. This was important news to a nation that had just sinned against God by worshiping golden calves!
A Hidden God or a Golden Calf?
God would not show His face, that is, His full glory. He covered Moses so that he would not see it and die. Rather, God revealed His inner glory, His name, through the word. It was the proclamation of His character.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. Col 1:15
in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 2 Cor 4:4
Jesus, called the WORD of God, came to reveal God’s character. He left behind His brightness, glory and power, coming in the form of a regular man. He was not a slave, as that would have prevented His earthly ministry, yet he came as a regular man. Isaiah 53 emphasizes this point.
For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, And like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty That we should look upon Him, Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. Is 53:2
In Jesus’ ministry, through His words and teachings, interaction with people of all social levels, behavior and example, and ultimately his death and resurrection, we see God’s character fully revealed. His righteousness and absolute regard for the Law are seen in the sermon on the mount. His compassion is visible through his loving acceptance of repentant sinners. We see God’s grace in providing the apostles with the Holy Spirit and every gift they needed. We see God’s righteousness in exposing the hypocrisy of the Pharisees etc. The gospel of the glory of Christ, is the way God has chosen to reveal his name to the world.
When Israel formed the golden calf idols, they ascribed outer beauty to God, while completely disregarding His character. This is the essence of idolatry. Man totally ignores God’s values, teaching, judgments etc, and would remember only His outer glory. The problem is that, as sinful people, we tend to covet the outer glory. This was the pride of Satan. He wanted to be praised as God was. He wanted to sit above the other creatures as God does. He saw the outer glory and coveted it. We are always in danger of, and in truth, guilty of the same fatal mistake. You don’t openly display your wallet, full of money, in the crowded streets of Manila! And God doesn’t reveal His glory to those who would take it for themselves.
Not to us, O LORD, not to us, But to Your name give glory Because of Your lovingkindness, because of Your truth. Why should the nations say, “Where, now, is their God?” But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.
The nations in those days displayed their gods in their temples. They were beautifully decorated, covered in gold or perhaps sculpted into a fearsome appearance. But where was the God of Israel? Israel’s God couldn’t be seen. He is in the heavens. The God of Israel gave the Torah, containing all that Israel needed to know about Him. He would not be worshiped as the gods of the other nations were. Rebellious Israel was not content with that kind of revelation. They were moved by the lust of the eyes. Today it is the same. Worldly minded people want the glory, not the truth. Money can be seen. Big houses can been seen. Fancy cars, clothes and make-up catch the eye. âYou have your bible, but I have my sports, expensive lifestyle and wealth!â Paul warns us to avoid ‘greed, which amounts to idolatry,’ Col 3:5.
Japan has many beautiful temples, yet the Buddhism is void of morality and cannot deal with the problem of sin and death. Nothing illustrates this more than their funeral services which never seem to end. The priests chants words which nobody understands. What is he saying? It doesn’t matter! As long as the incense is burning, the room is decorated and the priests is dressed in his traditional robes. There is aÂ Â sensuality about it all. An outward beauty to make everyone feel good. Very few people really care what the bible, of even Buddhism, teaches about death. It is enough to have an ornate religious service.
Though God often partially displays His glory in the world in this way or that, in a calamity, in blessing His children, or even a miracle, God is not to be ‘evaluated’ by the standards of man. Whether He is ‘seen’ or not, the truth about God is evident and abounding through the Word. The law that speaks to our hearts, prophecy has been fulfilled through the ages. His Wisdom surpasses man’s comprehension. These are all contained in the Word. Continuing with Psalm 115…
Their idols are silver and gold, The work of man’s hands.
They have mouths, but they cannot speak;
They have eyes, but they cannot see;
They have ears, but they cannot hear;
They have noses, but they cannot smell;
They have hands, but they cannot feel;
They have feet, but they cannot walk; T
hey cannot make a sound with their throat.
Those who make them will become like them, Everyone who trusts in them.
The idols are outwardly ‘glorious’, but they have no character at all. Their eyes will not see your sin, unlike Christ who is presented in Revelation asÂ lamb with perfect sight…
And I saw between the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders a Lamb standing, as if slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the earth.
An idol will not see what you do in the office when no one is looking, but Jesus, the true image of God, sees all. Though it has a mouth, an idol will not tell you when you are pushing the limits, playing with sin, stirring up unnecessary trouble, maintaining an unclean thought, but the true image of God speaks to us through the every abiding Spirit. The idol, though it has a nose, has no power to âtest the spirits, to see whether they are of God,â but the true image, the body of Christ is gifted with the discernment of spirits, as is every true believer to some extent. The true image is a threat to our selfish lifestyle, the idol does not get in anyone’s way. That is why the world loves idols, but gets offended at the truth.
The true God has eyes, ears etc and He uses them!
Behold, the LORD’S hand is not so short That it cannot save; Nor is His ear so dull That it cannot hear. Isaiah 59:
Man was made in the image of God. He gave us eyes, ears, hands etc and expects us to use them!
If any man have ears to hear, let him hear. Mar 7:16
But when rejecting Jesus, the true image, and replacing Him with an idol, man becomes like the idol.
Those who make them will become like them, Everyone who trusts in them. Psalm 115:8
They do not see God’s revelation, nor do they see the danger before them. Like the man who gambles until he is broke. They have no real wisdom. They do not hear God’s voice, nor do they hear the cries of the needy. Like my English language student who once remarked to me âI wish the flood had washed all the homeless people down the river!â They have no real compassion. They have no discernment of truth and error, good and evil. They have no love of the truth. The character of God is not in them at all.
Taking God’s name in Vain
You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain…Exo 20:7
A major aspect of taking God’s name in vain, is when we are called by His name, but we do not have his character. This happened to Israel when they turned to idols.
Everyone who is called by My name, And whom I have created for My glory, Whom I have formed, even whom I have made. Bring out the people who are blind, even though they have eyes, And the deaf, even though they have ears.
Taking God’s name in vain is not mispronouncing it! It is when you are called a Christian, a child of God, a son of Israel, but your ‘name’ doesn’t match God’s character.
See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.
1 John 3:1-3
If you are called a son of God, you have God’s name. Just as any child takes his father’s name. But do you have His character? Do you purify yourself, even as He is pure? Do you take His name seriously or lightly (in vain)?
But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?
1 John 3:17
If the rich have no compassion for the poor. How does God’s love abide in him? How does God’s character, His good name, apply to him?
Christians who make no effort to understand what is right and wrong; they partake in any kind of sin, saying âWe are under grace, not the law.â These are taking God’s name in vain. Paul says:
Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness. 2 Tim 2:19
They say they are Christians, but tell dirty jokes. They say they are Christians, but get drunk with the boys. They say they are Christians, but watch the same immoral movies and TV shows as the world. They curse their parents or bosses. If you take God’s name, yet walk in wickedness, watch out!
For the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain. Exodus 20:7
James describes the person who treats the rich better than the poor. He does not have the character of God.
Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court?Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called?
As God chooses the poor of this world, and gives them faith and the kingdom, he expects us , who are called by His name, to honor them too. The character of God is to practically love the evil and the good, sending them sun and rain etc. So we who are called by His name, ought to do the same. When we love only those who love us, we apply the word Christian to ourselves lightly; we take His name in vain.
God’s Name is Written upon Them
The mark of the beast, ‘the name of the beast of the number of his name’ (Rev 13:17) , is ultimately written upon the heads of the wicked. This seals them as having the character of Antichrist. So too, a similar promise, the seal of God, is made to the faithful.
Then I looked, and behold, the Lamb was standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads.
It goes on to describe their ‘godly’ character.
These are the ones who have not been defiled with women, for they have kept themselves chaste. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb. And no lie was found in their mouth; they are blameless.
These believers are ultimately sealed, as having God’s character, by having God’s name written upon them. The same is true of the church of Philadelphia.
He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write on him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name.
Let’s follow this motif. Remember that Paul made reference to this ‘seal’ in 2 Timothy.
Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness.â
2 Tim 2:19
The word here for ‘seal’ (sphragis- a mark of authenticity), is the same as the seal of the believers in Revelation (Rev 9:4).
Specifically, to the Philadelphian believers, there were three things written upon their heads.
God’s name, The new Jerusalem, and Jesus’ new name.
YHWH, Yerushalayim and Y’shua (if we take that to be His ‘new Name’), all begin with Y. In Hebrew this would be the smallest letter ‘yod’. Jesus said that not one ‘yod’ or stroke of the law would pass away, meaning not even the smallest part. A triple ‘yod’ would indicate humility, one of the key characteristics of Christ, who laid aside all His own glory, to humble himself as a man. Then to die on the cross and glorify the Father. In God’s kingdom, the least are truly the greatest.
The Song of Solomon describes the humility of God’s people with a wonderful metaphor.
I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys. (The bride speaking)
As a lily among brambles, so is my love among the young women. (The man speaking)
As an apple tree among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved among the young men. With great delight I sat in his shadow, and his fruit was sweet to my taste. (The bride speaking).
Song of Songs 2:1-3
The bride describes herself as a ‘Lily of the valley’. A grass flower in a low place. Beautiful, yet humble. In contrast her Beloved is described as a great apple tree. The bride is happy just to sit in his shade. The church should be happy to give all glory to God. When the church begins to emphasize its own glory, the size of its buildings, the numbers in the congregation, the attractiveness and style of its youth ministers, then God is given no glory at all. The true church may have a nice building etc, but it would make little difference if we were meeting under a tree! If God is being glorified in a church body, people’s eyes are on Him and his word, not the dÃ©cor of the building.
The Name of the Harlot
On the harlot, ‘Babylon’, in revelation 17, there are also three things written.
and on her forehead a name was written, a mystery, “BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. Rev 17:5
Instead of YHWH, now it is ‘THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS’. Instead of the New Jerusalem, it is now Babylon, and instead of the Son, the true image of God, it is the mother of abominations, which are idols or false images.
YHWH (the father of the faithful)Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Mystery Babylon (the mother of unfaithful harlots…)
Jerusalem (the great city of God)Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Babylon (the great city of this fallen world)
Jesus (the one true image)Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Abominations (false images. Ex. Deut 29:17)
This is written upon her because it describes her character. In fact it describes all the wicked over whom she reigns. They are associated with ‘Mystery Babylon’, the mother of harlots. The false idea that man can make his own way to heaven. As a harlot can go with many men, so Mystery Babylon can have many gods, any gods. Those in Philadelphia are true to the one true God. Hear O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one! Deut 6:4.
Secondly, both are associated with cities. The true believer is associated with Jerusalem. Not the wicked city called Sodom and Egypt, but the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from God. It is characterized by purity. Nothing unclean shall enter it. Is that true of the church today? What should be done with the homosexual ministers? What should be done with the pagan prayer of the emerging church? These are not pure. They are not part of the New Jerusalem. It is also characterized by humility. The true bride seeks no glory for herself. On her wedding day she is given the glory of her husband. She doesn’t walk around wearing her wedding gown 6 months before her wedding day saying âLook how beautiful I am!â On the other hand, Babylon is
âclothed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearlsâ Rev 17:4.
She seeks glory for herself. Christians and churches which seek to glorify themselves are very popular these days. They cannot be without the best music, the biggest, most beautiful buildings, the most handsome preachers, the ‘coolest’ youth leaders. They have no room for trouble in this life, only success and glory. But the true bride seeks the glory of God, not herself. Jesus said
âBlessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comfortedâ Mat 5:4.
By contrast, Babylon refuses mourning.
âTo the degree that she glorified herself and lived sensuously, to the same degree give her torment and mourning; for she says in her heart, ‘I SIT as A QUEEN AND I AM NOT A WIDOW, and will never see mourning.â Rev 18:7.
Babylon is full of pride. She glorifies herself. She would not stoop to the level of suffering. The true bride accepts that many things cannot be worked out in her life without suffering. God uses it to make her even more beautiful. She humbly accepts discipline and trials, knowing God is graceful to sustain her and hoping for a blessed end.
But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.
1 Pet 4:13,14
The true believer is associated with Jesus, the real image of God. That is who they look to, and follow and teach. The real image has eyes to see our sin, lips to tell the truth, no matter if we don’t feel like hearing it! He has ears that hear the cries of the oppressed and the prayers of the righteous. He has hands that save and also judge. The abomination, inscribed upon the wicked woman, has only outward glory, but no character at all
God’s name is not just a word, it is His character. In his name we pray, by the authority of his rule and willingness to hear us. By the fact that he has opened up the way into the presence of God for us. The name of the Lord is a strong tower. It is God’s faithfulness to save and protect us. To repay us for our good works and reward us for our suffering for His sake. His name is Wonderful, hard to understand. Who can fully grasp the depths of God’s character?
Are you called by God’s name? Are you called a Christian? Don’t take that name lightly! Purify yourself, even as he is pure. Humble yourself, as Christ did during his earthly ministry. We must seek to know and understand God’s character and receive it for ourselves. More grace, compassion, goodness, patience and righteous judgment.Â When we don’t, God’s name is blasphemed by the world. Ultimately, we will either be sealed with God’s name, or the mark of the beast. The three ‘Ys’ or the name of Mystery Babylon. Choose wisely!