When he spoke with God through the Burning Bush, Moses asked God what Name he should give the people when they ask what God has sent him. Moses might have been trying to be a bit too clever. It is clear from reading the passage that Moses was attempting to get out his heavenly mission. He asks “why him?” He says that he isn’t someone who can perform great miracles. He says that he cannot speak in front of crowds. And he asks what Name he can give for God. Up until this point in Salvation History, God had not revealed His Name to anyone.
It has to be understood that in the ancient world it was believed that names had power. To have someone’s name means that you had special access to them. The best modern way to understand it would be the way we exchange names now. If someone came up to you and said, “Hi, my name is Joe,” the common response on our part would be, “Hi, I’m _______.” Now imagine going up to someone else and saying, “Hi, I’m ________.” That person then looks at you and says, “Good for you.”
There is clearly a difference between the two interactions and it based on the giving or withholding of the name. Exchanging names means that you are entering into some kind of relationship. This relationship does not have to be horribly intimate, for example it can be between a waitress and a customer. But it is a relationship nonetheless. But when a name is given and then one is not returned, it implies a lack of relationship. A person by this action says, “You are not worth entering into any kind of relationship. I will not share with you even my name.”
I am reminded of the TV show Doctor Who. The main character is someone called “The Doctor.” One of the show’s central mysteries is what is his real name. But his name is so special and secret that none of his friends or companions knows it, except one. The only person to whom he gives his name is his wife. Only an extraordinary intimacy like marriage could impel him to share it.
For the Hebrews, God was viewed as the Transcendent One, high above all other gods. It would be shocking for God to stoop so low as to share something like His Name. But that is exactly what He does. He reveals Himself as “Yahweh” or “I Am Who Am.” This Name is both profound and
mysterious. Among the many things it reveals is that He is Existence Itself; He is the one from whom all things get their existence. There is no other being who could have this Name other than the Almighty God.
The revelation of God’s Name was the most significant revelation to the Hebrew people. It was a sign of God’s special connection to them. To no other people did God give His Name. Like the Doctor, God gives His Name as a sign of intimacy. It is the greatest way He can show that He has a special relationship with His chosen people. And that is why we, His people, must make sure that the Name is hallowed. To be “hallowed” means, essentially, to be honored and glorified. The question becomes: do I glorify the Name of God? First, do we take the Name of God as a curse? The 2nd Commandment is dedicated to condemning the misuse of God’s Name. It is fascinating to me that people who may get bent out of shape over the use of the f-word or the s-word or any number of other vulgarities think nothing of using “Oh my G–” in their speech. Taking God’s Name in vain is always a sin because it desecrates this great gift. If someone made your name synonymous with “smelly” or “ugly,” I’m sure you would be offended. How much more so when we take the Name above all names and use it as a curse?
And the Name of God has power. By the power of the Name of Jesus, we are saved. The Name of Jesus can be used to drive out demons. Whatever we ask for in Jesus’ Name will be granted by the Father. The Name of God is not trivial thing.
But the main way we glorify the Name of God is how we live our lives.
I know someone who will never eat at another Bob Evans’ Restaurant again because they once got sick while eating there. Now another Bob Evans’ will have different chefs, different materials, and different cooking implements. But it doesn’t matter for him. The name “Bob Evans” has been forever tarnished in his mind.
I remember another TV show: Lost. On that show, a group of mysterious and violent people antagonize a group of plane crash survivors. These “Others” (as the show calls them) say they are led by a great man named Jacob. As a viewer, you can only assume that Jacob is also a violent and
potentially evil person. The reason you assume this is because of the actions of his followers. But when we actually meet Jacob, we can see a complete disconnect between who he is and how his followers behave. But because of how is followers behave, Jacob’s name is tarnished.
In the same way, we live our lives as declared followers of God. We wear our crucifixes, attend our churches, and put up our Advent wreathes. We public show we are believers. When people see us, whether they know it or not, they ask us “Please show us God.” If we live lives of faith and charity then we will honor the Name of God. But if we are selfish and sinful, we dishonor the Name of the Lord.
Living constantly as an example of God’s goodness is a daunting task. How are we to do this?
By using what He gave us: His Name. We can call upon the powerful Name of the Lord and enter into that deep and mysterious relationship
with Him. And by sharing a life with Him, we will have the grace and strength to make the Lord’s name hallowed.
Copyright 2015, W. L. Grayson