The Mustard Seed
A Jewish friend of ours rarely refers to our Heavenly Father as "Lord," or "God," or even "G-d." Rather, our friend calls Him, "Ha Shem," which in Hebrew means, "The Name." This is a tradition practiced by many devout Jews.
What do they mean by calling God, "The Name"?
When you read the Old Testament of the Bible, you may notice that God is usually identified as "the LORD," in all capital letters, instead of "the Lord." The capitalization means more than simply showing respect for God. Rather, it shows respect for God's holy Name. Whenever you see the phrase "the LORD," that shows that the word in the Hebrew text is God's Name, YHWH (often pronounced "Yahweh" or "Jehovah"), the Name that means, "I AM" (Exodus 3:13-15).
It is out of respect for God's holy Name that the rabbis, when reading aloud the Torah and Tanakh (the Hebrew Old Testament), they will not say God's Name YHWH, but substitute it with another Hebrew word, Adonai, which means "Lord." 1
This deep respect for God's holy Name comes, in part, from the Ten Commandments, specifically: "Thou shalt not take the Name of the LORD thy God in vain." Or as it may be translated in modern English: "You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God." 2
In the First Commandment, God says, "You must have no other gods before Me." Literally, the Hebrew text says, "You must have no other gods in My face!" What does this mean? Martin Luther's simple answer in the Small Catechism: "We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things." All the other Commandments flow out from the First Commandment; or to say it another way, all the other Commandments explain the First Commandment. So it is significant that the next Commandment is about God's holy Name.
When you first learned the Ten Commandments, you were probably taught that this Commandment about honoring God's Name, means that we should avoid profanity – using God's name to curse.
"My God!" is a common expression used by both Deaf and Hearing people to show surprise or concern. (Hearing people sometimes express anger by cursing, "Jesus Christ!") How sad it is that many Christians do this. My heart breaks when little children say, "O my God!" as they copy their parents, who should know better.
People who hate God mock His name. Hollywood makes movies which portray a lustful Jesus. The National Endowment for the Arts funds artists who display a crucifix of Christ in a jar of urine and make a nativity scene out of dried poop.
We who are believers can do better than to join them in dragging our Lord's Name through the mud. Jesus said, "You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.' But I tell you, Do not swear at all... Simply let your ‘Yes' be ‘Yes,' and your ‘No,' be ‘No; anything beyond this comes from the Evil One." (Matthew 5:33-37 NCV) We can honor our Lord's Name in our conversations when we say only what is good and encouraging for other people.3
The full meaning of this Commandment and its application to our daily lives goes much deeper than just showing respect for God's name in our conversations. In coming issues of the Mustard Seed we will dig deeper into this Commandment about God's Name.
~ Pastor Ron
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in Ely 118.
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Pastor Ron Friedrich