What’s in a Name?
Over 20 years ago, when I was going through one of my insecure, feeling inadequate phases, I found myself quite upset, and wondering who I was to the Lord – was I really just a number in his vast Book of Life? And if he called me by name, what name was that? Mrs Marriott? Sue, like the majority of people called me; Susan like a few old aunts I never saw (horrors!): or Susie like Jo, my mother and a few other intimates? Why didn’t I know? There didn’t seem any reply, and I eventually dried my tears, and got on with the day.
About 5 months later, I was at the last teaching session of a very powerful Leanne Payne Conference, where we had seen astonishing healings at a deep emotional level through the Sovereign work of God, without any human involvement! So Leanne was teaching on how babies can be affected emotionally in the womb, and unbidden to my mind came the remembrance of what a crushing disappointment to my father I had been at birth, as their first child, and a daughter. He had been convinced I was a boy – and not just any boy, but Richard, who would fulfil all the goals and dreams that had been stolen from him, and be his little companion in everything. In fact, instead of cooking with my mother, I did do the concreting with him, and plane wood and develop black and white photos etc. etc! Well the short teaching session finished, and we went into the final communion service, with the usual squares of cut bread and plastic beakers passed along the rows at large conferences – as I took the bread, I clearly heard in my mind, “You have never been Richard to me, you have always been Susie. You are no disappointment.” And I was clearly aware of Father God’s knowing of me in the womb (one of the reasons I so love Ps.139), and yes you’re right, it was tears time again, but this time joyous ones, as his healing affirming love washed all over me, inside and out. And now I knew the name he used for me too, which is why I proudly use the name for myself everywhere.
The Ancient Hebrew name for God, YHWH (in Hebrew spelled yud-hay-vav-hay), is never pronounced out loud in Judaism. The custom of substituting the word “God” with G-d in English is based on the traditional practice in Jewish law of giving God’s Hebrew name a high degree of respect and reverence. This all arises from the third of the Ten Commandments and the fear of misusing the name of God
Ex.20:7 ”You shall not use or repeat the name of the Lord your God in vain, that is, lightly or frivolously, in false affirmations or profanely; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.” Or as the Message puts it “No using the name of God, your God, in curses or silly banter; God won’t put up with the irreverent use of his name.“ (What a far cry from our culture, when from the youngest to the oldest lips, the expletives “Jesus” and “God” jostle for position within every sentence it seems – shame on us!)
I read two interesting examples in Mark’s gospel of this respectful concern: firstly, on one of the occasions when the Pharisees came to try and trip him up, Jesus asked them, “Was the baptism of John from heaven or from men?” (11:30) “Heaven” was apparently a common Jewish term for God, often substituted for the divine name, to avoid a possible misuse of it. And then secondly, when Jesus was being tried before the Sanhedrin in ch.14:61 “But He kept still and did not answer at all. Again the high priest asked Him, Are You the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” “The Blessed One” was a way of referring to God without pronouncing his name!
All of which seems rather strange to us. But a few days ago, I did ask the Lord what name he would like me to use for Him – full of deep respect and awe of course, but reflecting the close tenderness of relationship he is drawing me into more and more. No answer yet, but I await with excited anticipation!