Yahweh (YHWH): The Name of God

“Is there a God?” For many, this is not the primary question. Rather, the bigger issue is, “If God exists, can God be known?” Or more importantly, from humanity’s perspective, “If God exists, does God know me?” Relationship is at the heart of so many spiritual questions. Does the Creator really desire relationship with me?

In the third chapter of the book of Exodus, God proclaims to Moses that his name is YHWH (Yahweh). These four Hebrew consonants are, in some way, a modification of the “to be” verb. So in essence, God’s name literally means “I am” or better yet, “I am what I will be and I will be what I am.” That is God’s name in the Hebrew Scripture.

However, God’s name is not a sentence, it is His name. Interpreters have struggled with how best to represent this reality. Most Bible translations will use the word LORD (all caps) to stand for the name of God (YHWH). The use of LORD carries on the tradition of giving reverence to God’s name by not saying it directly. The only problem with this translation is it makes God’s name sound generic. God’s name is not generic.

Think of it this way. Yahweh is God’s personal name, just like my personal name is Doug. God’s personal name means something like “I am what I will be and I will be what I am.” My name is not ripe with such deep meaning. Let’s carry this on a little further. I am a pastor, that is my role. So one could introduce me in this way, “Doug, the pastor.” God’s personal name is YHWH and his role is God. In the Holy Scripture God introduces himself this way, “Yahweh, the God of your fathers” translated “The LORD, the God of your fathers.”

God has not only given us his name, he has also shown us his character through his name. God is the great I AM! He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is the reason for all, and all finds reason in him. Before you and I were, God was, and will continue to be!

Moses must have taken tremendous confidence in knowing God’s name. The answer to everything, the reason for everything, the beginning of everything revealed himself to Moses. I AM (YHWH) knew Moses’ name, and Moses knew I AM’s name. Moses realized God could be known. Not only could God be known, but Moses could make God known to others.

I encourage every reader of the Bible to learn the name of YHWH (Yahweh). When you see LORD in all caps, think God is “I am what I will be and I will be what I am”. When the world seems chaotic, out of control, futile, and hopeless, trust the name of the LORD! YHWH is in control, he will make sense of all, he will be all that we need.

I know some prefer to believe that God cannot be known. They see God as a distant being who is too majestic to be bothered with the everyday workings of humanity. In this world view, God leaves us alone to eke out our own meaning and purpose in life.

I have not been able to adopt such convictions. Rather, I find myself continually seeking a better understanding of a God who can be known and wants to be known by His creation. I presume that makes me foolish to some or even crazy to others.

Even so, I have found that my pursuit of YHWH has produced in me a peace that truly passes all understanding. For me, my freedom is rooted in the name and sufficiency of God. In finding the great “I AM” I have found who I am as well. Most importantly, I have found an eternally true, loving relationship.


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