Wednesday, January 30

The name of God

At Quest this last Tuesday, we continued the discussion we started last week exploring who God is. One of the things we talked about is the different names that are used for God in the Bible and how we can see different aspects of who he is based on these names. This week we continued with that idea. Specifically, we looked at the name Yahweh.

Yahweh is the covenant name that the Isrealites had for God. In our English translations of the Bible, when we seen Lord in all capital letters, it is an indication that the original text used the name Yahweh. If it says God or Lord or some other term without all capital letters, then a different name for God was used.

As part of our discussion of the name Yahweh, we looked at the Nooma video called “Breathe.” In the video, Rob Bell specifically discusses the name Yahweh. The name Yahweh is considered so holy that it is typically not even said, it is spelled. The name is made up of four Hebrew letters. The letters are all vowel sounds, so the result is that the name is essentially the sound of breathing. We spent a long time discussing the implications of that idea. Here are some of the things we talked about:

  • Genesis 2:7 tells us that God “formed man out of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” In other words, God blew his name into us, and we became alive. As we discussed last week, the name was considered the essence of who a person was. So we became alive when God breathed the essence of who he is into our bodies.
  • When a baby is born, the first thing that it has to do in order to live is to take a breath, and the final thing that a person does before he or she dies is to take a final breath. That means that in order to live a baby has to say the name of God. And when a person is no longer able to say the name of God, they die.
  • You can extend this idea to see how all of creation says the name of God. People aren’t the only ones who breathe. Animals also breathe, so they also are speaking the name of the God who created them. But it goes even further. Plants respirate, so we could say that, at least in a manner of speaking, they also say the name of God when they “breathe.” Also, if you have ever been someplace like a volcano in Hawaii or the thermal features in Yellowstone, you have witnessed that even the rock that makes up the Earth itself breathes. We decided that this gives an entirely new understanding to the passage in Luke 19 where Jesus talks about the rocks crying out if we remain silent. (Although we agreed with Robert that it is more fun to picture the rocks growing actual mouths). When you look at it this way, you can see that everything that God created bears witness to him by speaking his name.
  • Even when a person denies the existence of God, they are breathing when they do it. So if Bryndon is talking with someone who says “God is not real,” if he listens he can hear that person saying the name of God in the middle of his unbelief.
  • We also agreed that when we think about God in this way it becomes even more evident that he is everywhere. We talked about how easy it is to become so distracted by everything that is going on in life that we don’t see what God is doing. Rob Bell talked about the story of Moses and the burning bush. God tells Moses to take off his shoes because he was standing on holy ground. The ground had always been holy. It was that Moses was realizing that fact for the first time. We discussed whether Moses had passed the burning bush before and had just been too busy to notice it. It led us to wonder how many times we walk past things that are holy, or places where God is at work, and simply not noticed it because we were too distracted with everything else that was going on in life.

This was a really nice wrap up to our discussion of who God is. God is all around us, and all we have to do to see that is to just put away the distractions and open our eyes. Next week we’ll turn from who God is and start to look at who we are.

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