Knowing Yahweh as Israel Did
All of Israel's beliefs and practices come directly from revelation of Yahweh as revealed through His name. If we are going to consider that God would have us regard His Self-revelation to Israel as relevant for us as Believers today, we would do well to start where Israel started - with Who the God of Israel says He is. We can only really follow Him if we know who He is. I trust that when you have read through to the end of this article, you will come to a greater knowledge of Him and will see how you can have even deeper faith in the God of Israel to meet your every need today.
There is so much more in seeing the Hebrew roots of our faith restored than keeping the feasts and Shabbat. To begin with, while it may seem initially insignificant, names are primary. God names what He creates. The first names ever given were those God gave to heaven and to earth: "And God called the expanse heaven....And God called the dry land earth, and the gathering of the waters He called seas." (Gen 1:8, 10) Names are part of the creation God gave us.
Have you ever thought about how important names are? Our entire cultural foundation is based upon names. We identify everything by what we call it, or them. Names are foundational to communication or how would we know what or who we were talking about? The first thing we do when meeting someone new is tell them our name, or ask them theirs.
What Adam was naming was the different species and categories of animals, indicating that he knew something of the animals he named beyond our knowledge of them now. He most likely named them to organize them to better rule over them. (1:28) With Adam's "unfallen" made-in-the-image-of-God nature himself, as there was not yet any animosity between man and animals, he could "know" them inherently. He could relate to the animals in such a way as to be able to understand the characteristics and nature of each type of animal in order to know their needs. All this naming reflects the relational rule of God's love expressed into the earth and all its inhabitants. It gave Adam some kind of relational over-lordship and indicates a caring leadership, expressing God's character and nature in the earth.
As Adam was still in the perfect form that God created him, with nothing marred or unsullied, his innate loving nature, his intelligence and understanding, not to mention his memory to mentally catalog this information, were without lack of any kind. He was entirely complete. Except, of course, for a mate, someone suitable for him; a counterpart. Someone to fully and completely understand him the way he understood the animals. His understanding of them and their nature only increased the reality that none of the animals could share in who he was, or understand or share in his own nature.
And so God created a helper for him. He created a woman. And what was Adam's first response? He named her! "And the man said...She shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of man." (2:23) The Hebrew makes more sense of it: "This one shall be called Ishah because she was taken out of Ish." Ish is Hebrew for man or husband; the "ah" in Ishah makes it feminine, therefore woman or wife.
Later, Adam gave her another name, that of Eve (the Hebrew actually is Havah): "Now the man called his wife's name Havah because she was the mother of all life." (Gen 3:20 Hebrew English Linear Bible) We see here that again, because Adam understood the nature of her motherhood even ahead of time, thus making him the first prophet according to some Jewish scholars, he names her according to her nature as "the mother of all life."
At first she only had the name of Ishah, identified as it were, as a part of himself, his wife, but now she is named again, after the Fall incidentally, giving us a further revelation of her own nature and characteristics, that of an identity separate from his. I do wonder why Adam didn't identify them both as "parents of all life," together. Could it be that sin had marred the "oneness" that characterized all relationships previous to the Fall, including their own? I wonder why he didn't see himself as the father of all life.
Well, what about God's name? What has He to tell us about His own name, the name He calls Himself, the name through which He reveals His own character and nature to mankind? His name must certainly be of prime importance. In the creation account, only the name Elohim is used until creation is complete. Once all is in place, He identifies Himself by His personal name now that He has someone with whom to be in relationship. In Hebrew this name would be the equivalent of YHVH, the closest pronunciation being Yahweh. (The name Jehovah is not a correct translation for many reasons, nor does it mean Lord. Both will be addressed in a later article.) He is Yahweh even to Cain after he kills Abel, indicating that God was still involved and not distant or withdrawn, though Cain is being severely disciplined.
When God enters the scene on Israel's behalf in Egypt after their not having heard from Him apart from what they knew from Jacob and Joseph, God revealed Himself to Moses as "Yahweh" and told him that was His name forever: "And again said God to Moses, thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, Yahweh, the God of your fathers... has sent me to you. This is My name forever." (Ex. 3:15, 16 Ibid.) It is "Yahweh your God" who gave the Torah to Israel at Sinai.
To the Hebrews who were surrounded by nations who worshipped many gods, knowing the One True God by His proper name was of profound importance. The pagans whom the Hebrews would encounter, and even those at a distance or later in time, like the Greeks and Romans, could call upon their deities, using some magic formula or trying to manipulate them to do their own will. But their deities had the same weaknesses as the humans did and were therefore no really able to affect life for the better, no matter how lofty the tales were of their origin or activities. Pagan deities, of which there were thousands, were thought of as doing the will of the worshipper, much like Aladdin's genie when the lantern was rubbed. The deity could say "no" of course and not respond. Israel stood apart from all other nations because they knew a Deity Who had revealed His own name, and was declared to be the God of all gods, indeed the only true God. His name was holy and was to be used only by those in relationship with Him, a profound privilege indeed, making Israel unique as no other nation.
For the Hebrews the use of the name was not to seek the purposes of the worshipper but rather the use of Yahweh's name recognized His transcendent supremacy over a world in need of His protection and provision. To the Hebrews the name of Yahweh was not a matter of human control of the Divine, but rather access to the gracious and merciful Lord of life. To call upon Him by His name was a means of privileged access to Him, which through His covenant promises to Israel, assured His faithful presence, attention, interaction and intervention.
This gives us some understanding of why not taking His name in vain (Ex.20:7) is so critical, as doing so would in effect be to identify Him as equal with any other gods. This would negate Israel's purpose and calling to reveal Yahweh to the world and would entirely misrepresent Who He is, ultimately leaving the world with no hope. God's purpose in calling Israel to Himself was so that Israel would declare His name to the world: "For this cause I have allowed you to remain in order to...proclaim My name through all the earth." (Ex. 9:16) It is through Israel knowing His name that He revealed His essential nature through Israel to the rest of the people on the earth.
Not taking His name in vain meant to respect and honor that name, knowing that "calling upon His name" would bring to them the power and essence of Who He is to meet their needs.
To know His name was to accept that He is the Creator God, whereas to those not knowing His name, is to say they didn't know God. For many, no Creator God was actually thought of as existing, or at the least not seen as being involved in the lives of human beings. Even today that's true for many people who see creation as a scientific phenomenon rather than the doings of a loving God. No one who knows Yahweh would say that. That Israel claimed to know this One True Creator-Sustainer God was unique among all the people's and nations of the world. Indeed, their history as a people is an unfolding of events relating to Yahweh's presence among them.
Yahweh's name conveys to us God's character as the Eternal One as well as His power and His saving nature. We see the same attributes in the name of Yeshua, which means "Yahweh saves." The angel's announcement to Joseph not to be afraid to take Miriam (Mary) as his wife really only makes sense when we know that the Child's name means "Yahweh saves": "And she will bear a Son and you shall call His name Yeshua, for it is He who will save His people from their sins." (Matt.1:27)
Since God's name cannot be separated from God Himself, or to say it another way, from God's Self or His Person, using His name focuses us on Him as we distinguish Him from all other gods, not just conceptually but relationally. To know the true and living God, therefore, is to know Him by the name by which He first identified Himself, as the only God, the Creator God, the relational God who wishes all to know Him as He truly is. Otherwise, God is known incorrectly and inadequately and is consequently misunderstood. As the church today comes to know Yahweh as He has revealed Himself to Israel, many misunderstandings of Who He is and how we can and are to relate to Him will likely be cleared up.
Yahweh continued to reveal Himself in various situations all within the parameters of His being God who personally cares for His people and acts to reveal His true nature. He does so by continual and unfolding revelations that allow us to see into His nature with each instance. He is always Yahweh, but we come to see that as Yahweh, He is everything we need.
EL SHADDAI means "God Almighty" or "God All Sufficient." It is first used in Gen. 17:1, 2 when God came to Abraham and said, "I am God Almighty. Walk before Me and be perfect and I will make my covenant between Me and you and will increase you very greatly." We can assume that God is able to do what He promises, even to helping Abraham walk perfectly before Him.
YAHWEH-NISSI is "The Lord Our Banner." When we are in difficulties and in the midst of battles, Yahweh is on the battlefield showing us the way to Him and letting us know He is with us. Nissi is from a word which means "to glisten," "to lift up." (See Psalm 4:6. Ex. 17:15.)
YAHWEH-M'KADDESH means "The Lord Who Sanctifies you." In the midst of Yahweh giving instructions to Moses regarding not sacrificing their newborn sons as human sacrifices to Molech, (it would seem abortions might fit in here) or turning to familiar spirits and the spiritists (this could apply to new age spiritism or any occult practices), Yahweh says "I am Yahweh who is sanctifying you." (Lev. 20:8) It is really an on-going process. M'Kaddesh also means "to make whole; to set apart for holiness." For those who wish to walk with Yahweh, He sets them apart for holiness which precludes any involvement with new age, occult or spiritist practices.
YAHWEH-SHAMMAH is the name that provides for us the wonderful confidence that "Yahweh is There" (Ezek. 48:35).
YAHWEH-SABAOTH is "The Lord of Hosts" He is the commander of the angelic host and the armies of God who are sent to do the work of Yahweh, including protecting us.
Lonnie Lane comes from a family of four generations of Jewish believers, being the first one saved in 1975. Lonnie has been in church leadership for many years, and has planted two “one new man” house fellowships, one in Philadelphia suburbs and the other in Jacksonville, Florida, where she now lives near 6 of her 8 grandchildren. Lonnie is the author of “Because They Never Asked” and numerous articles on this website. She has been the Producer of Messianic Vision's radio and TV shows and the International Prayer Co-Coordinator for Messianic Vision's intercessors. Click Here to order Lonnie's book, "Because They Never Asked."Unless otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from the Interlinear Hebrew-Greek-English Bible, Jay P. Green, Sr., General Editor and Translator, published by Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA, Copyright 1976.
Scripture quotations marked "NASB" are from the New American Standard Bible Copyright ©1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundationk, La Habra, Calif. All rights reserved. Used by permission.