Keeping His Name Holy – Yahweh

Keeping His Name Holy – Yahweh

Keeping His Name Holy – Yahweh.

“When I tell you my name, I have given you a hold over me that you didn’t have before. If you call it out, I stop, look and listen whether I want to or not. In the book of Exodus, God tells Moses that His name is Yahweh, and God hasn’t had a peaceful moment since.” (Frederick Buechner).

The unspeakably holy Name of God; the personal Name God offered to Moses at the Burning Bush in Exodus 3; the indecipherable Name with no vowels, YHWH; the Name could mean “I AM Who I Am,” or “I AM He Who Is,” or “I AM the One Who Exists,” and even “I Will Be What I Will Be.” Moses asked God for His Name, and Moses got a real doozy. This Name is too holy to be sullied by human speech. Also, the Jewish reader didn’t want to risk taking His holy Name in vain. So faithful Jews refuse to pronounce it for any reason. Yahweh is often shortened to The Great I AM.

In Scripture, every time the reader sees LORD in all caps, that signifies Yahweh. This Name is used about 6,800 times in the Hebrew Bible, and 700 times in Psalms alone. The first time we seen Yahweh in the Bible is in Genesis 2:4“In the day that Yahweh-Elohim made the earth and the heavens, when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up – for Yahweh-Elohim had not caused it to rain upon the earth…”  The shortened form of Yahweh is Yah, or Jah, which is found over 40 times in the Psalms, including “Hallelujah,” which literally means “Praise Yah.”

The word Yahweh is connected with the Hebrew verb “hayah,” to be, to become, to happen. Martin Buber thinks the verb could also partly mean “to be actively present.” So Buber, and many other Jewish scholars, think the Name could mean something like, “I will be there as I will be there,” or “I will be what I will be.” In other words, “I live an uncreated existence, and yet I will be ready, willing, able to be present in whatever situation you are in.” Rabbi Jonathon Sacks believes that early Christian translations omitted that future tense altogether. He says that in this Name, the LORD claims to be “the God of the future tense.” In this important future tense, Sacks believes that He is a God of surprises, that we will have to learn to trust Him, and that we will only know Him through His moral commitments and His acts, not just His abstract essence.

“What is the Name’s mystery? First, it has no vowels. Without vowels it is impossible to pronounce a word. But YHWH also has no real consonants! Y, H and W really are blowing sounds, rushings of air through the mouth. The point is one of elusiveness or abstraction. The Name of God is so subtle it could slip away from you. YHWH is not a God you can grab hold of and be sure you’ve got it in your mental grasp.” (Rabbi Arthur Green, These Are the Words: A Vocabulary of Jewish Spiritual Life).

YHWH, or Yahweh, so basic, so mysterious, so elusive. A personal Name, yet somehow impersonal. It is God’s self-revealed Name, alluding to His uncreated existence, His eternal Personhood, His quality of Being, His basic self-sufficiency. It is perhaps a spiritual version of an “act of being” verb. Yahweh, faithfully relational, a keeper of covenants, unchangeable complete, infinite and everlasting. God is the LORD, He will not give His glory to another. Yahweh, set apart from everything else in His holiness.

The Great I AM revelation seems to leave a lot of blanks. I AM… what, exactly? If there was any doubt as to His character and self-description when using that Name, God certainly cleared a lot of that up in His amazing self-revelation in Exodus 34: “And Yahweh descended in a cloud, and stood with Moses and pronounced the Name Yahweh. Then Yahweh passed before Moses and called out, ‘Yahweh, Yahweh, God of tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in faithful love and constancy, maintaining His mercy to thousands, forgiving fault, crime and sin…” (Exodus 34:5-7, NJB).

But what does Yahweh look like in daily, practical terms? Sure enough, here comes Jesus to the rescue, filling in some of the details. He loved to explain some of the holy Name with easily understood metaphors: I AM the Bread of Life; I AM the Good Shepherd; I AM the Light of the World; I AM the Gate for the Sheep; I AM the Resurrection and the Life; I AM the Way, the Truth and the Life; I AM the True Vine. Perhaps that is one good way to unpack something as expansive and mysterious as YHWH. Another way is to flesh it out, to fill in the blanks of Yahweh by showing us the very nature of the Great I AM in daily practice. And Jesus did just that. Now we know more of what I AM means, through the Person of Christ.

A Prayer to Yahweh (ya’-way):

We humbly revere you, Yahweh, LORD Eternal, the Great I AM. For you are who you are, and you will be who you will be. You are infinitely righteous and intimately personal. You are the Name above all names, who was, who is, and who is to come. You are great in counsel and mighty in deed. Yet in your power, you show steadfast love to thousands of thousands. You deeply love us with an everlasting love, for you are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abundant in lovingkindness and truth. You are the LORD, you will not give your glory to another. Nothing is too hard for you, for you are the same yesterday, today and forever. We thank you for your Son Jesus, who revealed to everyone your nature and your character. We bow before you, Yahweh, and glorify your sacred Name. Amen. 


Yahweh & “40” – U2 (Vertigo Tour Live From Chicago, 2005) – YouTube

2 Replies to “Keeping His Name Holy – Yahweh”

  1. What a gift! Rob and I both read it and reveled over the idea of Jesus being the continuing revealing of God By Name!